Croatian veteran Ivan Ljubicic ousted world No. 2 Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells Masters 1000.
While third-seeded defending champion Rafael Nadal booked his quarterfinal berth with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over big-serving American John Isner, Djokovic couldn't keep pace with the blistering serves and clean groundstrokes of Ljubicic, a former world number three now ranked 26th in the world.
Ljubicic said he was delighted to end a five-match skid against Djokovic, calling some of those defeats “brutal”.
"I'm really happy to be able to beat him finally," said Ljubicic, whose only prior win against Djokovic was their first meeting in Zagreb in 2006.
His most recent defeats to the Serb had come in the first round of last year's US Open, and in the quarter-finals at Dubai last month.
"I served well. My serve helped me, especially in difficult moments... in the second set I was serving even better than the first," said Ljubicic, who gave himself both of his match points in the final game with two of his 13 aces.
Djokovic saved the first, but on the second Ljubicic came up with another big serve that the Serbian could only sail back across the baseline.
"But also two weeks ago in Dubai I was serving unbelievably," Ljubicic said. "You can't beat Novak only with a serve, but it does help you a lot if you can get a lot of free points off that shot."
Djokovic said he knew what to expect. "I don't think any match we play is different," he said. "It's more or less based on the service and returns. As much as I get in the rallies, I think I have more chances to win the point. It wasn't the case today.
"My execution was very bad and he played well when he needed to and he served well when he needed to," said Djokovic, who won his second straight Dubai Open title in Feb, then won both of his matches to help Serbia beat the US in the first round of the Davis Cup. He has looked far from sharp since arriving here, having to save three match points to subdue Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round.