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Men's Second Round: Novak Djokovic Makes Winning BNP Paribas Open Return
3 Min Read · March 10, 2024

The World No. 1 and five-time BNP Paribas Open champion was given a warm reception from the packed crowd as he strolled back onto Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time in five years. His second-round tussle with Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic looked like it might be a pleasant walk in the park as well, but Vukic had other ideas. He recovered from a lopsided opening set to push Novak Djokovic to the brink, eventually falling 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in the final match of Saturday’s day session. 


“Five years is a very long time for a tennis player,” Djokovic told the crowd after his win, with a satisfied smile on his face. “It’s amazing to be a part of this tournament as a player. There’s a great community, culture and love for the sport, and for tennis – you can feel it.” 

Djokovic will face Italy's Luca Nardi, the 20-year-old World No. 123, in the third round Monday. 

Playing for the first time since his loss in the 2024 Australian Open semifinals to Jannik Sinner, Djokovic recorded his 400th Masters 1000 win, and improved to 51-9 lifetime at Indian Wells with his triumph. 

The 24-time Grand Slam champion was out of the blocks quickly in his first appearance in the California desert since 2019, breaking for 1-0, and then solidifying his hold on the set with another break for 5-2. 

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 36-year-old legend. 

The Aussie rebounded in set two, and he made his opportunity to prolong the match count when he scorched a forehand inside-out return to break Djokovic and claim the second set, 7-5, at the 90-minute mark. 

It was the shot of the day, but it only seemed to make Djokovic more determined in the third set. 

“First official match for me after Australia, more than five weeks,” Djokovic said. “I was nervous at the start, but I thought I played pretty well in the first set. It was anybody’s game, really. He stepped up in the important moments.”

With the stadium lights taking over for the setting sun, Djokovic put his best serving on repeat and dropped a mere five points on serve across the stanza. 

Vukic, sensing the inevitability of the situation, yielded a break in the fifth game, and another in the final game of the contest, Djokovic blew kisses to the raucous crowd, the match done and dusted in two hours and 10 hard-fought minutes. 

“In the third, anything could have happened,” Djokovic said. “I managed to hold my nerve and find the serve when it mattered. I think I shifted gears in the last two or three games, so I’m very happy with the way I finished off this match today.” 

Vukic, a former NCAA All-American at the University of Illinois, fought valiantly for what would have been the biggest win of his career, and was sent off to a loud ovation by the fans. 

“He deserved every applause that he was getting when he walked off the court,” Djokovic said. “He played an incredible match. I thought his serve and his forehand were lethal today. Every single opportunity he got, he was crushing it. He was very difficult to play against.” 

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