Novak Djokovic vs. Bjorn Fratangelo: Score, Reaction from 2016 Indian Wells

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2016

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, serves to Bjorn Fratangelo during their match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Sunday, March 13, 2016, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

After getting stunned early, Novak Djokovic rebounded to knock off Bjorn Fratangelo 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round in Indian Wells, California.

The 22-year-old Fratangelo entered Sunday night's match ranked 149th in the world and owned an 0-3 record in ATP World Tour events. His only previous appearance in an ATP event this year was at the Australian Open, where he lost in the first round to Stephane Robert in straight sets. 

Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times shared a few other notable facts about Fratangelo as he tried to shock the world:

Despite those credentials, it became apparent early that Fratangelo was at the top of his game, and Djokovic was out of sorts. Fratangelo broke Djoker's serve twice in the first three games as he went up 3-0 in the first set, via TennisTV:

After Fratangelo took the first set, TennisTV tweeted out the stats, which showed he was in control:

Djokovic's 18 errors didn't help the equation, but Fratangelo was not trying to sneak through a slightly cracked window. He saw a door ajar and broke right through it, putting Djoker on high alert. 

Djokovic's first-set loss was one for the record books, as Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com noted:

Unfortunately for Fratangelo, the BNP Paribas Open requires players to win two sets to advance. The door he slammed through quickly shut when Djokovic got his bearings back and played like the No. 1 player in the world.

The second set was a breeze for Djokovic, who needed approximately 24 minutes to win six of seven games and even the match at one set apiece.

Jeff Sackmann of TennisAbstract.com noted some similarities between Djokovic's match and Gilles Simon's win earlier in the day:

For context, Simon dropped his first set against Vasek Pospisil, 6-1, before responding by winning 12 of the final 13 games to advance to the next round. It was an interesting strategy, but in a moment that would make Pepper Brooks from Dodgeball proud, it paid off. 

Miguel Cicenia of Last Word on Sport humorously pointed out that Djokovic's robot-like capabilities kicked in:

Fratangelo was sitting in the arcade with his pockets hanging out and lint falling out of them, because his session expired in spectacular fashion. He did fare about as well as any American player should be expected to at this point, though.

One big change for Djokovic from the first set, per Juan Jose Vallejo of Rolling Stone, was his ability in the return game:

Fratangelo battled back in the third set, even taking a 2-1 lead after three games, but Djokovic again found his game in time to avoid a huge upset.

This can be a crucial learning point for Fratangelo. He's been off the radar for his entire career, but going head-to-head with the world's best player and holding his own for two of three sets will put him somewhere on the map.

Before rumors of Djokovic's slow demise start to surface, he had to retire from the Dubai Duty Free Championships because of an infection in both of his eyes. He did play three matches at the Davis Cup last week, but he's not far removed from being on the shelf.

While Djokovic will not use any excuse for his performance Sunday, his ability to push through adversity speaks volumes about his talent and resolve. He will need to play a lot better moving forward if he hopes to win, but sometimes being able to survive is all that matters.

 

Post-Match Reaction

Following his victory, Djokovic told reporters his game was off against Fratangelo: "All credit to Bjorn on playing a great match, but I wasn't feeling comfortable at all on the court. I was just trying to find a way, trying to hang in there and make it through."

Djokovic did not dismiss Fratangelo's performance, adding that his opponent "deserved every point he got" and he "played a great match, especially in the first set."

There's nothing wrong with Djokovic having an off night against an inferior opponent. Those are the kinds of matches that can say more than a dominant win, so this figures to be a key moment for the world's best player as he seeks to defend his crown at Indian Wells.