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Novak Djokovic cops backlash over 'appalling' post-match act after Indian Wells loss

The World No.1 was left fuming as he went down to Luca Nardi.

Novak Djokovic has come under fire for his actions during and after his shock loss to Luca Nardi at Indian Wells on Tuesday. The World No.1 engaged in a war of words with the chair umpire as he suffered a historic loss against the little-known Italian in the third round.

Nardi - the World No.123 - was only featuring in the men's draw as a lucky loser but stunned the tennis world after ousting Djokovic 6-4 3-6 6-3. The loss marked the first time in the glittering career of the 24-time grand slam winner that Djokovic has lost to a 'lucky loser'.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic argues with the chair umpire at Indian Wells.
Novak Djokovic was livid with the chair umpire for not calling hindrance against his opponent Luca Nardi at Indian Wells. Pic: Getty

The Italian is also the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic at ATP Masters 1000 or grand slam level. Nardi only earned his spot in the men's draw following an injury to World No.30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry, but made the most of his opportunity.

The 20-year-old Italian - who admitted he'd grown up idolising Djokovic - frustrated the top seed all match and took the opening set in deserved fashion, with a combination of poise and power. Djokovic's mood went from bad to worse in the second set when his opponent benefited from a bizarre moment to claim a point on the Serb's serve.

Nardi was surprised by an 'in' call off the Djokovic serve and casually hit the ball back over the net, as if the point was over. Djokovic came into the net to hit a drop shot but when no call came from the chair umpire, the Italian raced in and hit a winner to the bemusement of Djokovic.

The World No.1 clearly thought his opponent was guilty of hindrance after appearing to give up on the point, before continuing on. Djokovic argued the point but the chair umpire disagreed that it constituted hindrance and explained that just because Nardi momentarily stopped doesn't mean he would forfeit the point.

"Just because he stops, doesn't mean the point stops," the chair umpire told an incredulous Djokovic. The Serb fired back: "He literally stopped and that completely confused me. And I stopped as well. How can you not make that judgement?"

Novak Djokovic cops backlash over 'appalling' post-match move

The chair umpire explained that if Nardi had called 'out' or said something along those lines to distract Djokovic then it would have been grounds for hindrance. The official explained that because the Italian didn't actually do anything to stop the point, then he'd technically done nothing wrong.

Djokovic had some heated words with Nardi at the net after the final point, reportedly saying: “It’s not right but bravo. No no no no. Bravo."

Tennis journalist Ricky Dimon savaged Djokovic's post-match actions, particularly considering he was in the wrong. “Appalling that Djokovic brought up the stopping play incident when he shook Nardi’s hand at the net," Dimon wrote on social media. "1) that point had nothing to do with the outcome of the match, 2) it’s not Nardi’s call to make, 3) umpire made the right call. 'Stopping' happens all the time and never called.”

Fans described Djokovic's post-match move as 'disgraceful'. Others took aim at his antics during his argument with the umpire.

Luca Nardi victory leaves tennis world speechless

Djokovic not only lost the argument and the point but he also ended up losing the game. The Serb did manage to bounce back from the drama to claim the second set but met a re-energised Nardi in the deciding set. The Italian hit 16 winners in the final stanza, compared to just two from the five-times Indian Wells champion, sealing victory with a sixth ace.

“I think before this night no one knew me. I hope now the crowd enjoyed the game. I’m super happy with this one," Nardi said afterwards. Asked about how he held his nerve to defeat the 24-time major winner, the stunned Italian was almost lost for words, but described it as a "miracle". “I don’t know man. Really, I don’t know. I think this is a miracle. I’m a 20 year old guy ranked 100 in the world beating Novak. Crazy.”

Novak Djokovic and Luca Nardi, pictured here after their match at Indian Wells.
Novak Djokovic had some choice words for Luca Nardi after their match at Indian Wells. Image: Tennis TV/Getty

Djokovic said his shock defeat was just "part of the sport" and something he has to accept. “I guess every trophy that eventually comes my way is going to be great, obviously to break the kind of negative cycle a little bit I’m having in the last three, four tournaments where I haven’t really been close to my best.”

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Nardi's momentous win saw him book a last-16 meeting with Tommy Paul. The American also went through in three sets after defeating France’s Ugo Humbert 6-4 3-6 6-3. Seventh seed Holger Rune, ninth seed Casper Ruud, Taylor Fritz and Grigor Dimitrov all moved through in straight sets. And French veteran Gael Monfils defeated Brit Cameron Norrie in a dramatic 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 6-3 rollercoaster.

with agencies

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