Top-ranked Novak Djokovic suffered his earliest loss in three years when he was stunned by 55th-ranked Jiri Vesely 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
It was also his first loss in a completed match since November, having retired from a match in February with eye infections. This was his first match of the year on clay.
Defending champion Djokovic saved a match point when he was serving against Vesely in the ninth game. But the Czech, who had never beaten a top-10 player, sealed the win on his second match point in the next game when Djokovic’s forehand landed wide.
“I was playing really, really bad,” Djokovic said. “I wasn’t feeling any freshness.”
It was his first loss in a Masters-level event since August. Since then he’d won nine of 10 events, including two grand slams, four consecutive Masters titles, and the ATP Finals.
“There is the proof that nobody is unbeatable,” Djokovic said. “It’s not easy to lose the match in terms of accepting it, but I have to congratulate my opponent.”
The 22-year-old Vesely, who named Roger Federer as his idol when growing up, was understandably staggered by his win.
“It’s something amazing. When I went on court, I had completely different thinking,” Vesely said.
“I hoped to win a game, hoped to do well. I really didn’t think I could beat Novak today.”
He did soon notice, however, that the 11-time Grand Slam champion was off his game.
“Novak wasn’t at his best level, that’s for sure, and he made a lot of mistakes from the beginning,” Vesely said. “That’s what gave me a little bit more confidence, creating the rallies. I didn’t give him too much rhythm.”
Earlier, eight-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal dropped serve twice and still beat Aljaz Bedene of Britain 6-3 6-3, but last year’s runner-up, Tomas Berdych, lost to 99th-ranked Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia 6-4 6-7 (7-1) 6-3.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, also advanced past Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 into the third round and next faces Gilles Simon of France.
In other second-round matches, Milos Raonic of Canada, David Goffin of Belgium, Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire of France all advanced to the third round.
Paire next faces No. 2 Andy Murray.