The Novak Djokovic Odyssey: Seeking Triumph in Uncharted Waters

Novak Djokovic suffered losses in Melbourne and Indian Wells

by Jovica Ilic
The Novak Djokovic Odyssey: Seeking Triumph in Uncharted Waters
© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic failed to win an ATP title in the opening three months of the season. Novak admitted it's not something he is used to following a shocking Indian Wells defeat to Luca Nardi, hoping to turn the tables and lift a trophy in the upcoming clay events.

Since 2007 (18 years), Djokovic has claimed an ATP title by March in 15 seasons, dominating in Melbourne, Dubai, Indian Wells or Miami. The Serb missed the feat in 2018 after dealing with an injury and again in 2022 after entering only Dubai due to his vaccination status.

Novak will travel to Monte Carlo without an ATP title for the third time since 2007, suffering three losses in 2024 and looking for a better run in the Principality.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic kicked off the season at the United Cup, beating two rivals before falling to Alex de Minaur.

The Serb struggled with a wrist injury and experienced a 6-4, 6-4 loss in an hour and 33 minutes. De Minaur outplayed Djokovic on serve and return, barely losing a point behind the first serve and never facing a break point.

The Aussie played aggressive tennis, attacking on the return and delivering one break in each set to seal the deal in style. Novak struggled with a minor virus at the Australian Open, defeating Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin in four sets but not playing at his best.

The defending champion looked better against Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Adrian Mannarino, beating them in straight sets and reaching the last eight, his well-known territory in Melbourne. Novak had to dig deep against Taylor Fritz in a 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win, prevailing after three hours and 45 minutes following a grueling battle in the opening two sets.

Djokovic failed to convert 15 break chances in sets one and two, surviving in the opener before losing the second to keep the rival in contention after nearly two and a half hours! The sun went down, and Novak felt better in sets three and four, delivering four breaks and ending Taylor's resistance.

Thus, the defending champion arranged a mouth-watering semi-final clash against Jannik Sinner. The young Italian presented his A-game in a rock-solid 6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 victory in three hours and 22 minutes, reaching his first Major final at 22.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic failed to win an ATP title in first three months of the season.

Djokovic played way below his best, suffering his first Australian Open defeat after passing the quarter-final stage!

The Serb sprayed over 50 unforced errors and failed to create a break chance for the first time in completed matches at Majors. Sinner tamed his strokes nicely and grabbed five breaks from 11 opportunities, wasting a match point in the third set but sealing the deal with a single break in the fourth.

Djokovic took a break and returned to action in Indian Wells, competing in the desert for the first time since 2019. Novak could not produce his best tennis yet again, beating Aleksandar Vukic in three sets before falling to a lucky loser Luca Nardi 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, experiencing an early exit.

Djokovic needed a stomach pill against world no. 123, raising his level in the second set but losing ground in the decider. Novak clinched one point more than Luca, but not the crucial ones. The Italian faced only four break points, losing serve four times and delivering three breaks from 11 opportunities.

Nardi played attacking tennis, trusting his strokes and staying composed despite losing the second set. Novak had the upper hand in the shortest exchanges, and Luca erased the deficit in the more advanced ones. Nardi created the only break chance in the opening set, coming from 40-15 behind in the fifth game.

Djokovic squandered game points and offered his rival a break chance after a forehand mistake.

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2024© Graham Denholm / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Luca claimed it with a forehand winner, moving in front and gaining a boost.

The Italian served for the set at 5-4, kicking off the game with a volley winner and sealing it with an unreturned serve for 6-4 after 44 minutes. Novak stepped in on the return in the second set, delivering two breaks and forcing a decider.

Luca squandered a 40-0 lead in the second set and lost serve after playing a loose backhand. The third game offered five break points for Nardi, who won a point after a questionable call and broke back. Djokovic grabbed another break in the sixth game, moving 4-2 in front and holding at love in game seven.

Nardi faced two set points on serve in the eighth game and denied them with brave hitting. Novak left those chances behind and seized the set with a backhand winner on serve art 5-3, forcing a decider after an hour and 33 minutes.

Djokovic saved three break points in the second game and held after 12 and a half minutes to remain on the positive side. They served well in games three and four, and Nardi landed a smash winner in the fifth for 3-2. Novak played a loose service game and faced three break points in the sixth game after a forehand mistake.

Luca converted the second, opening a 4-2 lead and moving closer to a shocking victory. The Italian closed the seventh game with a service winner, forcing the Serb to serve to stay in the match. Djokovic grabbed the eighth game at love, prolonging the action and seeking one last chance on the return at 3-5.

Instead, the young gun landed three winners at 15-15 in the ninth game, sealing the deal in style and producing a career-best victory.

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"I could have done everything differently against Luca, producing a poor level.

I'm without an ATP title this year, which I'm not used to. Usually, I start a season with a Major title or a trophy in Dubai, Indian Wells, or Miami. It's not the case in 2024, and that's fine; I have to accept that. I hope to win the first title of the season soon and keep going.

I have not been close to my best at the last three or four tournaments, and a title would break the negative cycle a bit," Novak Djokovic said.

Novak Djokovic Indian Wells