Novak Djokovic, a man synonymous for being the greatest hard-courter in the men’s game–boasting 84% win-loss record on the surface, the highest of any man in tennis history–continued to whimper as he lost for just the second time in Miami in his last 32 matches there. While that statistic is just a mere representation of how good Djokovic can truly be, he endured another disappointing afternoon, falling in straight sets to Frenchman Benoite Paire as he steps up his bid to regain full fitness.
Paire’s 6-3 6-4 victory over the former World #1 in just over an hour was solidified with little fuss. Djokovic’s attempt to chase a Paire drop shot early in the first set was symbolic of his struggles throughout the match when he appeared to be in some physical discomfort. He was broken twice in the first set, the second of which he was 40-0 and ended losing his service game and the set.
While there were sporadic improvements in the second set, Djokovic was a shadow of the man who seemed invincible on this part of world. The six-time champion, being watched by wife Jelena, won just 44% points in the whole match as Paire broke again at the close end of the second set to seal the match. This defeat, which is Djokovic’s third on the trot–his worst sequence of losses since 2007–puts Djokovic back on the drawing board.
The Serb reiterated prior to match that he is playing pain-free for the first time in “years,” a bold statement which makes you wonder whether his pragmatic approach is just a way to shift the spotlight and take things slowly. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say in the aftermath of the match, particularly when he looked relatively uncomfortable as compared to last week’s three-set loss to Japan’s Taro Daniel.
For Benoite Paire though, who lost to little-known American Mitchell Kruger in Indian Wells, this is a big opportunity, as he progresses to the third round to face another Serb–Filip Krajinovic.