KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) - Six-time champion Novak Djokovic lost his opening match at the Miami Open to Benoit Paire on Friday, 6-3, 6-4.
Defeat for defending champion Federer, just his second of the season, means the legendary Swiss will lose his place at the top of the world rankings to Rafael Nadal when the updated list is confirmed next Monday.
Former US Open victor Del Potro extended his win streak to 12 straight matches as he seeks his third straight ATP title after winning back-to-back in Acapulco and Indian Wells.
In Wimbledon 2016, after winning the title in the two previous years, he lost in the third round to Sam Querrey, his earliest Wimbledon exit since 2008.
However, Djokovic has not been able to emulate his arch-rivals on his return from a six-month injury layoff.
The Serb was stunned by Benoit Paire in the second round of the Miami Open.
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"I'm trying, but it's not working", said Djokovic, sounding as if he was confessing during a psychotherapy session. His primary physical problem is a right elbow injury, which kept him off the court for the past six months of a year ago and required what Djokovic's camp refers to as a "small medical intervention" after the Australian Open in January.
It is Djokovic's third consecutive defeat since he reached the Australian Open fourth round, where he made a comeback after a six-month injury lay-off.
The victor of four Sunshine Doubles then had a "small medical intervention" on his racquet-swinging elbow and made an earlier-than-expected return at Indian Wells only to crash out of the Masters 1000 tournament in the second round earlier this month.
Djokovic looked bad in his lost to Paire as well; losing 6-3, 6-4 against a 28-year old Frenchman with 1 career title, a losing record in singles matches and now ranked 47th in the world. Weak arm strength, very little movement after hitting the ball.
The 30-year-old was a shadow of his former self, winning just 53 per cent of points on his first serve and failing to break of serve. Maybe this is the beginning of the end, and another phase in the post-Big4 era.
"I wanted to come to Indian Wells and Miami because I wanted to see whether I can play a match", he said. "I'm not feeling great when I'm playing this way". Just it's impossible at the moment. "I don't want to sit here and whine about my last couple of years", he added.
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