The tournament's 32 seeds all received first-round byes.
Djokovic took six months off after Wimbledon previous year and returned at January's Australian Open, where he lost in the fourth round. But he had a poor summer Down Under before undergoing a minor elbow procedure. "He puts the ball wherever he wants", Daniel said.
"Very weird. I mean, I just completely lost rhythm, everything". Also have a Foundation trip I'm doing at that time, so I'm planning that a little bit. "Just didn't feel good at all, nerves were there".
"I was not even supposed to be here because of the surgery that was only five, six weeks ago", said Djokovic.
"I think that would be a major mistake by myself".
Thiem has already won a tour-leading 17 matches this season, but he had to work hard to beat 19-year-old Tsitsipas, who reached the quarter-finals in Dubai last week and is ranked 71st in the world.
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And there was to be no way back as 25-year-old Daniel celebrated the biggest win of his career in two and a half hours, marking his first victory over a top-20 opponent.
"And even if I lost the second set, I still had faith I could pull something off in the third". I was able to stay pretty tough, so I'm pretty proud of that.
Djokovic was stunned by world no. 109 Taro Daniel of Japan in three sets - 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1 at Indian Wells.
While Djokovic was exiting the event, top-seeded Roger Federer finally completed his entrance.
His title defence got off to a soggy start on Saturday night when play was suspended because of rain, with Federer up a set and tied 2-2 in the second.
"I was feeling like he was not loving my slice and I was also mixing in dropshots", said Federer who extended his ideal record this season to 14-0. The surface doesn't react so much; the ball doesn't travel so fast.
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It took less than an hour for Federer to see off the world No. 28 on Stadium 1, with Jeremy Chardy standing in the way of a place in the quarterfinals.
Second-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia and eighth-seeded American Jack Sock both earned second-round wins in straight sets.
In other action, Sam Querrey (18) went through after beating Mischa Zverev 6-4, 7-5, while Lucas Pouille of France (9) lost out to Yuki Bhambri of India 6-4, 6-4.
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Trump's economic adviser quits over tariffs
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