Novak Djokovic Matches Rafael Nadal's Masters 1000 Milestone

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal stand tied at 128 Masters 1000 appearances

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic Matches Rafael Nadal's Masters 1000 Milestone
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic returned to Indian Wells after five years, entering the season's first Masters 1000 event and matching his great rival Rafael Nadal. Novak notched his 128th Masters 1000 appearance, repeating Nadal's feat and looking good to pass him by the end of the season.

Feliciano Lopez, Roger Federer and Fernando Verdasco are the only players ranked above Djokovic and Nadal, with none competing at a Masters 1000 level anymore. Thus, Novak will have a chance to become the leader of the pack in two or three years, although his focus is on Major events.

Nadal looked good to become the first player with 140 Masters 1000 appearances, debuting at 16 in 2003 and collecting already 26 Masters 1000 events before turning 21!

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

The Spaniard entered the draw of six Masters 1000 events in 2019 before slowing down, competing at only ten tournaments since 2020 and none after Paris 2022!

Plagued with injuries, Rafa skipped an entire 2023 Masters 1000 season for the first time since 2002, hoping for a comeback in Indian Wells two weeks ago. However, the veteran postponed his return, not feeling ready to compete and hoping for a better run in Monte Carlo on his beloved clay.

Djokovic made his Masters 1000 debut in Paris 2005 and became a regular participant at premium ATP events, gathering 27 appearances by the end of 2008. Novak competed at all nine tournaments in 2009 and missed only six between 2010 and 2016, becoming the dominant figure at this level and clinching many records!

Djokovic entered 17 out of 18 Masters 1000 events in 2018 and 2019 before slowing down a bit from 2020, like Nadal. Novak has played 13 Masters 1000 tournaments in the previous five years, matching Rafa's number in Indian Wells and having a chance to finish the season in front of an injury-prone Spanish veteran.

Djokovic and Nadal should compete in Monte Carlo, and their 130th Masters 1000 tournament should come before Roland Garros. Rafa and Novak are the most decorated Masters 1000 players, with the Serb conquering 40 trophies and the Spaniard standing on 36.

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

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have played 128 Masters 1000 events each.

Djokovic and Nadal played their first Masters 1000 match 17 years ago in the Indian Wells final, creating an incredible rivalry over the years and fighting in the most recent final in Rome three years ago.

It's Nadal's last Masters 1000 title, while Djokovic still pushes boundaries, lifting two trophies at 36 in 2023. Novak defeated Holger Rune, Andrey Rublev and Grigor Dimitrov in Paris last year, wrapping up a Masters 1000 season with a milestone 40th title at that level.

The Serb could not add another trophy to his collection in Indian Wells, experiencing a shocking third-round loss to Luca Nardi. Novak played his first Indian Wells match in five years against Aleksandar Vukic, struggling a bit after not competing for over a month but earning a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 triumph.

It was Djokovic's 400th Masters 1000 win, becoming the second player to achieve that after Nadal. Novak lost serve two times in the second set and played well in the remaining two, providing five return games from 13 opportunities.

The Aussie sprayed a forehand error in the first game of the encounter and got broken. Djokovic wasted another chance on the return at 2-0 and faced the first break point in game four. He saved it with a service winner and landed another for a hold and 3-1.

Aleksandar suffered another break in the seventh game, and Novak closed the opener with service winners in the next one for 6-2. Vukic played better in the second set, earning three break chances in the second game and seizing the last to move 2-0 in front.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Aussie denied three break points in the next one and held for a 3-0 advantage. Aleksandar squandered a 40-15 lead in the fifth game and allowed Novak to pull the break back with a volley winner.

The Aussie moved 6-5 up with a service winner in game 11 and landed a forehand return winner a few minutes later, breaking the Serb for the second time and taking the set 7-5. Vukic saved two break points in the third game of the third set with forehand winners and landed an ace for a 2-1 lead.

Novak clinched a break in the fifth game and delivered two fine holds in games six and eight to open a 5-3 gap. Djokovic earned two match points on the return in game nine and seized the second for a winning start. Novak faced a lucky loser Luca Nardi in the third round and experienced a shocking 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 loss.

Djokovic played way below his best, taking a stomach pill and falling to world no. 123 despite a solid performance in the second set. The 20-year-old faced four break points and got broken two times. Luca clinched three breaks from 11 chances, playing aggressive tennis and staying focused in the decider en route to a career-best win.

The first set offered one break chance, and Nardi clinched it at 2-2 with a forehand winner to move in front. The young gun closed the set on his serve at 5-4, building the advantage and gaining a boost. Djokovic responded strongly in the second set, overcoming a 40-0 deficit in the second game and delivering a break after Nardi's backhand error.

Luca Nardi & Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Luca pulled the break back in the next one, seizing the fifth break chance after a questionable call. Novak stayed focused and secured another break in game six, opening a 4-2 advantage.

Nardi saved two set points on serve in game eight before Djokovic closed the set on his serve at 5-3 with a backhand winner. The Serb denied three break points in the second game, staying on the positive side. Novak faced issues in the sixth game, getting broken and sending his rival 4-2 in front.

Luca moved 5-2 up with a service winner and served for the win at 5-3. The Italian held his nerves and fired three winners en route to an impressive win.

Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal