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Indian Wells: Novak Djokovic fights off Del Potro for a fourth round berth

Djokovic will play Nick Kyrgios next.

INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 14:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns ashot to Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 14, 2017 in Indian Wells, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Defending champion Novak Djokovic fought off a gritty Juan Martin del Potro to secure a fourth round berth at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California on Tuesday. The second seed regrouped after losing the middle set for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 victory in this blockbuster third round encounter.

The five-time champion will next square off against the 15th seed Nick Kyrgios, who beat him at the ATP Acapulco quarter-finals this month.

Slow start for Djokovic

2013 runner-up Del Potro came out of the blocks with his fiery forehands doing all the talking. Breaking the defending champion in the very first game of the match, he soared to a 2-0 lead. Djokovic kept on struggling in his subsequent two service games as well and both went to deuce.

It was after the first five games that the second seed finally woke up. With three phenomenal returns, Djokovic broke the Argentine to love and made it 3-3. The 31st seed found the going tough as the 12-time Grand Slam champion started feeling more and more confident.

Striking his backhands down-the-line with aplomb and showing the athleticism that he is known for, Djokovic made the breakthrough when it mattered the most. Breaking Del Potro and thereby preventing a tie-break, the Serb grabbed the first set, 7-5.

The 2009 US Open winner shrugged off that setback for a blazing start to the second set. In a mirror image of the first set, Del Potro once more secured a 2-0 advantage. Under relentless pressure from the Serb, the Argentine held on for a marathon service game and carved out another break of serve to race ahead to 4-1.

Djokovic did get one of the breaks back but Del Potro still succeeded in levelling the match and enforced a decider.

It was, however, all Djokovic in the decider. The Serb looked thoroughly fired-up as the Rio Olympic silver medallist looked more and more weary and dejected. Del Potro saved a break point in his first service game but wasn’t lucky the second time around.

Djokovic made repeated forays into the net to throw Del Potro off his rhythm and his brilliant anticipation skills helped him earn that vital break. A totally devastated Del Potro failed to provide any more resistance and the Serb marched on to the fourth round after wrapping up the match in 2 hours 17 minutes.

The Serb is now up against Nick Kyrgios of Australia, who was responsible for his early exit in Acapulco last week, and it’s an encounter he will be wary of. The winner of that match will face either Novak Djokovic or Kyrgios, meaning we could well see a repeat of Federer-Djokovic or Djokovic-Nadal. 

For now, all eyes will be on the biggest clash of them all – Federer vs Nadal – even if it is in the earlier stages of the tournament.

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