Nole will not defend his Indian Wells title on Sunday.
The top seed and defending champion lost to 11th seeded American John Isner in three sets 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-7 (5) in 2 hours and 45 minutes in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open.
Novak made a break in the third game of the opening set and consolidated it for 3-1 lead. He was serving at 5-4, but was unable to close out the set. Isner broke back and the set went into a tie-breaker. The American won it using his fourth set point for 9-7 in 1 hour.
The 24-year-old Belgrade native put the first set behind and responded with composure. A break in the eighth game was enough for him to take the second 6-3 in 38 minutes.
Nole earned himself a break point in the seventh game of the final third set, but Isner fired a 230km/h serve to hold. The Australian Open champion saved a match point in the 12th game and two more in a tie-breaker, but the American big server converted his fourth opportunity to advance to his first career ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.
He will face either Spaniard Rafael Nadal or Swiss Roger Federer on Sunday.
“I had in the third set a couple of times 30-all and some chances really where I was in the rally, but he came up with some incredible groundstrokes winners, and that’s it,” said Novak. “I have to shake his hand and congratulate him for the win.”
Match statistics: aces (8-21), double faults (2-0), winners (37-55), unforced errors (20-41), break point conversion (2/6 – 1/2), total points won (117-106).
Novak will next play at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami where he returns as a defending champion. He defeated Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in last year’s final.
The world no.1 will begin his quest on Saturday, March 24, at 20.00 local time (Sunday at 01.00 CET).
“It’s still I think a week to my first match, so I’m gonna take some time, regroup. I feel physically well. I think I’m playing equally well. I’m confident ahead of the Miami tournament.”
The singles draw will take place on Monday.