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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Novak Djokovic

Philipp Kohlschreiber shocked top-seeded Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, for his first career win over a reigning world No. 1 in Indian Wells.

Photo credit: Dan Huerlimann/Beelde Images

Festering frustration erupted as Novak Djokovic dropped the first set then dropped the hammer smashing his racquet against the bottom of his sneaker leaving a mangled mess.

Djokovic destroyed his racquet face and had no antidote for the chronic headaches Philipp Kohlschreiber posed today.

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Bamboozling the top seed with unsettling variety, Kohlschreiber shocked the Serbian 6-4, 6-4, scoring his first win over Djokovic in a decade to drive into the Indian Wells round of 16.

Winless in 11 prior meetings vs. world No. 1 players, Kohlschreiber played with calm control for much of the match, while Djokovic could not find the court for some stretches and ran into trouble when he tried squeezing shots inside the lines.

"Look, he's been around for so many years, and he doesn't really get overwhelmed by the occasion of playing on center court or anything like that," Djokovic said of Kohlschreiber. "He's proven he can win against top guys. He's been around so many years, and he's got an experience of playing on a big stage.

"It's not really a surprise... when he's feeling the ball on a given day, he can really win against anybody on any surface for that matter."

The match was scheduled for last night, but rain postponed it until this afternoon. Kohlschreiber was eager and energized.

"I was fresh. I had a great strategy to play against him," Kohlschreiber said. "I had two good wins. So everything came together. Yeah, very special to beat the No. 1.

"Unfortunately the tournament is not over. I have to get back tomorrow with a great mindset. Today I want to, yeah, take the moment, celebrating with my coach, I would say. And I've got a lot of messages. I know it's a very special victory today."

Day conditions created a higher bounce his opponent exploited, said Djokovic. 

"I liked my chances more at night against Kohlschreiber, but it wasn't to be last night. It was raining," Djokovic told the media in Indian Wells. "But completely different conditions today. Ball bounces much higher. Obviously he uses his spin very well. 

"I wasn't playing well. One of those days. I congratulate him for, you know, playing tactically really well and getting me out of my comfort zone. He deserved to win."

The 39th-ranked German mixed the pace masterfully denying Djokovic rhythm. Kohlschreiber called it his biggest career win "in terms of the number" and it avenged one of his most painful losses.

Nine years ago, Djokovic denied three match points knocking Kohlschreiber out of the Indian Wells third round, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (3). Today was rousing redemption. 

"It’s never too late, huh?" Kohlschreiber told Tennis Channel's Leif Shiras afterward. "I’m very happy I’m still playing such a great tennis and still having all the love for the game. I know Indian Wells, 14 time here, I really enjoy it.

"Years ago, I had three match points against Novak here so it’s a great time to settle down the past."

Djokovic committed 27 unforced errors—seven more than his opponent—and cashed in on only one of five break-point chances.

The 35-year-old German beat Djokovic for the first time since the 2009 Roland Garros snapping a seven-match losing streak to the 15-time Grand Slam champion.

Kohlschreiber blew open the top half of the draw and will try to sustain his roll against 18th-seede Gael Monfils with a quarterfinal spot on the line. 

It was Djokovic’s first defeat since he bowed to 24th-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut in the Doha semifinals in January.

"I think very crucial moment was beginning of first set. I survived I think four break points," Kohlschreiber said. "Didn't play that clever at that moment, especially some easy shots I missed.

"So I let some opportunities let go. But after that, I felt like, okay, I'm getting there, I'm feeling the ball well. I'm also feeling that my opponent is not able to play his A-game. He's struggling. He doesn't like to play the balls that high."

A lethargic Djokovic tried to jump-start his emotions with the racquet smashing to punctuate the opening set, but the pain continued in the second.

The five-time champion committed a pair of unforced errors surrendering serve at love to start the second set.

A steady Kohlschreiber kept hitting with depth and angle, while Serbian was sailing shots without conscience. Djokovic flew a forehand long—his 17th unforced error—as Kohlschreiber confirmed the break. Casting glances at his box, Djokovic couldn't dial in his groundstrokes against an unerring opponent.

Spraying a forehand down the line wide, Djokovic dropped serve again falling into a one-set, 2-5 chasm.

Serving for his first win over a world No. 1, jitters struck Kohlschreiber, who shanked his signature shot, the one-handed backhand, gifting back the break in the eighth game.

When the veteran German's second shot to serve it out arrived, he did not blink.

Kohlschreiber plastered a forehand right off the sideline, smiled nervously as Djokovic challenged, and thrust his arms in triumph wrapping a one hour, 38 minutes. 

For the 35-years-old Kohlschreiber, conquering the world's best was well worth the wait.


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