Novak Djokovic has not had an eventful 2018, and the trend continued at the Indian Wells. Djokovic, who was returning from an elbow surgery, was looking like a faded memory of his older self. In his first tournament since the Australian open, Djokovic was shown the way home in his very first match. He succumbed to a three set loss, against Taro Daniel, who is ranked outside the top 100 in the ATP rankings.
“For me it felt like first match I ever played on the tour,” Djokovic said after his loss. “Very weird. I mean, I just completely lost rhythm, everything. Just struggled also a little bit with the health the last couple of weeks. I was grateful to be out on the court after surgery that quickly. But at the same time, I just didn’t feel good at all.”
This is the first time since 2011 that Djokovic has lost back-to-back matches at the ATP tournaments. Jim Courier, former tennis pro, pointed out the difficulties Djokovic faced in his comeback match. “The question marks surrounding his defeat today will only grow larger,” Courier said during his commentary on the match. “We wondered post surgery what it was going to look like, how his elbow was going to react to the strain and stress, but it was his heart and head that didn’t react the right way in this match. That is as head scratching as anything you’ll see.”
Djokovic has accepted that now its a mental battle for him, and how he handles it in the coming months.“Obviously having only played a couple of matches in nine months, you’re still, in a way, battling inside of your mind whether you’re fit or not,” reflected the former Australian open champion. “And even though you don’t have pain, you’re still thinking about it, because it’s been something that I have been feeling and dragging for over two years.”
Novak committed more than 50 unforced errors, which even he recognized as inexplicable in a three set match. “Yeah, everything, nerves were there,” he said. “I made so many unforced errors that it was just one of those days where you are not able to find the rhythm from the baseline especially from the backhand side. That has always been a rock solid shot for me throughout my career. Just some inexplicable, uncharacteristic errors, but that’s I guess all part of those particular circumstances that I’m in at the moment.”