Third seed Stan Wawrinka was sent packing in the round of 16 at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in California on Wednesday and was very nearly joined by Rafael Nadal, who pulled off a Houdini-like escape to reach the last eight.
Fourth seed Nadal, a three-time Indian Wells champion, came from 5-2 down in the final set and saved a match point before battling past 18-year-old German prospect Alexandr Zverev 6-7 (8-10) 6-0 7-5.
The power-hitting Zverev had been bidding to become the youngest quarter-finalist at the event since 1989 and led 40-30 when serving for the match but his nerve deserted him.
The German, rated by Nadal as “a possible future No.1”, netted a forehand for deuce, then dumped another for break point before putting a third into the net to be broken.
Spanish left-hander Nadal won the last five games of the deciding set to reach the quarter-finals, where he will face fifth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan. Nishikori defeated American ninth seed John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5).
Wawrinka was ousted by Belgian David Goffin, who sealed a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-5) victory in the deciding tiebreaker after a wildly fluctuating match that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours.
It was only the second time in his career that Goffin had beaten a player ranked in the top 10, and it earned him a spot in the last eight of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the second time.
The 25-year-old Belgian will next meet big-serving Croat Marin Cilic, who beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5 5-7 6-2.
“It was the best win of my career, for sure,” Goffin told Tennis Channel.
“I had some problems with my serve, a little bit with my toss. It was tough with the heat and the sun to control the ball.”
Novak Djokovic avenged his only loss of 2016 with a ruthless 6-3 6-3 victory over Feliciano Lopez as the Serbian top seed eased into the quarter-finals.
An eye issue forced Djokovic to retire against his Spanish opponent at the Dubai Championships last month but he had his sights set firmly on victory for their rematch in California.
The world No.1 needed just 66 minutes to prevail as he broke Lopez three times.
“I have respect for his game, which definitely made me very cautious of approaching this match and made me very determined to impose my game plan from the very beginning,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I was very solid. I didn’t allow him to come to the net too many times. It was a good performance.”
Djokovic next faces Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-2, as the defending champion seeks an unprecedented fifth title at Indian Wells.
Also advancing into the last eight was Canadian Milos Raonic, the 12th seed, who overpowered sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4 7-6 (9-7), while 13th-ranked Gael Monfils of France downed Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-4.