INDIAN WELLS, California, March 16 Reuters-DPA – World No.1 Novak Djokovic broke his opponent late in both sets to eke out a 7-5 7-5 third-round victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Tuesday as the Serb continued his Indian Wells title defence in California.
A day after world No.2 Andy Murray was eliminated, Djokovic had no such letdown despite suffering a wobble towards the end of the match.
Djokovic broke serve to lead 4-2 in the second set and squandered four match points in the ninth game before handing back the break to the German world No.30.
The next two games went with serve, Djokovic ensuring the contest would not go to a deciding set when he sealed victory on his fifth match point, breaking for the fourth time in the match to advance to the round of 16.
Djokovic was not pleased with his performance.
“This should not happen to a professional – it was totally my fault.
“I had errors on three match points in a row. Philipp is an experienced player and he took advantage to come back to the match.”
He next plays Spaniard Feliciano Lopez for a place in the quarter-finals.
Rafael Nadal gained some revenge over Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco with a 6-0 7-6 (9-7) triumph.
Having lost to Verdasco in the Australian Open first round in January, Nadal dominated early before digging in late in the second set to put the match away, saving five set points in the tiebreaker to triumph after falling 6-3 behind.
“I feel lucky to win the tiebreak but, at the same time, I played well with not many mistakes as I went for the points,” said Nadal, looking for his fourth title at Indian Wells.
“I lost matches similar to this one in Australia, in Buenos Aires and in Rio de Janeiro, so it’s important for me to win matches like this.”
Nadal next faces 18-year-old German prospect Alexandr Zverev, whom the Spaniard believes is “a possible future No.1”.
The power-hitting Zverev confirmed his potential by breezing past 16th-seeded Gilles Simon of France 6-2 6-2 in just 67 minutes.
“I thought I played really well today,” said Zverev. “I was really ready for a long, long fight and a long three-set match … I’m really happy that I got through so quickly.”
Zverev is bidding to become the youngest quarter-finalist at the event since 1989 and to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final in just his fifth tournament at this level.
Earlier, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori reached the round of 16 with a 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) win over American Steve Johnson.
Nishikori, chasing his second ATP World Tour title of the season after victory in Memphis last month, will next face American ninth seed John Isner, who fired 15 aces in his 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win over France’s Adrian Mannarino.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took down American Sam Querrey 6-3 6-4.