This week, the ATP Tour's leader on the court made more news he could do without: he lost his third-round match (his second match at the BNP Paribas Open) to Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4, 6-4. The 35-year-old hadn't dropped a set to Djokovic in their past four meetings. He improved his lifetime mark against the Serb to 2-8. And he earned his first win against a world No. 1 in 12 tries.
"It's never too late," the German told Tennis Channel's Leif Shiras after the match (watch above). Given the late-career success of players like Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer and Ivo Karlovic, we should try and remember that.
There was no reason to think Djokovic's arsenal would run dry in the desert, but the stop-and-start nature of this match couldn't have helped him. After one service game late last night, Djokovic was sent home when rain suspended play. Had Djokovic won today, he would have been forced to play another match tomorrow, adding to the unusual circumstances.
He won't have to worry about that—but, more importantly, it's not an excuse. Kohlschreiber had to deal with the same predicament, and he handled it brilliantly. After a long-overdue set win, he took a 5-2 lead in the second before Djokovic knew what hit him. Meanwhile, the 15-time Grand Slam champion's racquet took some hits from its owner, who on this day did more damage to himself than his opponent.
Kohlschreiber failed to serve out the match at that juncture, and considering his history against Djokovic and top players, it was understandable. But the insurance break helped Kohlschreiber recover in time. It wasn't over until it's over, but game, set and match was finally called after this line-scratching winner:
After the call was confirmed, Kohlschreiber was showered with applause the crowd, and praise from a fellow player on Twitter, who didn't take kindly to coverage of Djokovic's performance:
Lol yeah, something has to be wrong with him right? I lose to Kholi and get absolutely shredded ‘same old kyrgios’ how about the guy is just good? And he knows how to win matches? Hate this, why we always gotta kiss these guys when they lose ???? https://t.co/4nwxBWUiQi— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) March 12, 2019
We'll have more on this match from Steve Tignor—stay tuned.