It just shouldn’t be surprising.
Only five weeks after Novak Djokovic had surgery on his elbow, he’s lost to world number 109 Taro Daniel.
It’s either testament to Djokovic’s quality, or a great insult to Daniel that this is any kind of surprise. Even prior to the surgery, Djokovic had played just five competitive matches in six months, having spent most of the back end of 2017 out of action.
And it’s often cited that the most important part of Djokovic’s game is his physicality. I would suggest it’s actually his belief in his physicality.
“It felt like the first match I ever played on tour,” he said after the defeat.
I remember watching him in the days before his remarkable 2011 season. His defeat to Marat Safin at Wimbledon in 2008 – when he hit 10 double faults – in particular points to a mental fragility that is usually masked by supreme physical confidence.
To see him struggle against Daniel, in a three-set battle, isn’t a surprise, just a reassertion of the depth of quality in professional tennis. Daniel was in an excellent place to take advantage of a Djokovic who, in his own words, is starting from scratch.
When the Serb got things together in 2011, it was the start of one of the most remarkable runs in modern tennis; a 41-match winning streak and only one defeat to Nadal and Federer all year. The question is, at the age of 30, has he got the resolve to build that kind of killer confidence again?
I wholeheartedly believe he does – despite the fragility he has sometimes shown, he is one of the most incredible competitors the sport has seen. And his speciality; reinventing himself when times are tough. So this defeat at Indian Wells could help trigger a new incarnation for Nole.