Five-time former champion Novak Djokovic came through a tough test against Kyle Edmund on Sunday to advance to the BNP Paribas Open third round with a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.
Edmund served for the second set at 5-3, but could not close it out as Djokovic fought back with a break in the ninth game and sealed victory in the ensuing tie-break after one hour and 51 minutes. It was the closest the 22-year-old Edmund has come to taking a set off Djokovic in three meetings with the World No. 2.
"I think I played very well in the first set," said Djokovic. "Second set was obviously up and down. But credit to Kyle for playing some really aggressive tennis and taking it all out. He made a lot of winners in the beginning and midway through the second.
"There was not much wrong I did. I did miss some forehands. But other than that, it was a very solid match. Good, quality tennis, a good test. I'm just pleased with the overall performance."
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The 29-year-old Djokovic improved to a 48-6 mark at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he has lifted the trophy the past three years. The Serbian has won a total of 30 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns and is one victory shy of the 300 match-wins milestone (299-62 record).
The victory sets up a blockbuster clash between Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro. It will be the pair’s 17th contest, and they’re rarely routine. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 12-4, but their past two meetings saw del Potro thwart Djokovic in two tie-breaks at the Rio Olympics, before the Serbian prevailed in three sets just last week in Acapulco.
"I don't have the luxury of pacing myself," said Djokovic. "I'm playing del Potro now. I have to give it all. That's what it takes to beat this guy. Definitely not the draw that you like early in the tournament and that you wish for, but it is what it is. I have played him in Acapulco. Very close match. It went down to the last couple of points. I don't expect anything less than that. Very even match, and I've got to give it all."
Djokovic is looking for a return to top form, after a surprise defeat to Denis Istomin in the Australian Open second round preceded a quarterfinal exit against Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.
In an all-Argentine clash, Juan Martin del Potro recorded a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over Federico Delbonis.
After hitting a hot shot ‘tweener lob winner in the early stages, del Potro fended off set point at 30/40 in the 10th game before sealing the opener in the ensuing tie-break. The Tandil native claimed the only break of the match in the fourth game of the second set to prevail in one hour and 51 minutes.
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The 28-year-old del Potro is playing just his third tournament of the season after taking time at the start of the year to work more on his fitness. The right-hander has found the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to be a happy hunting ground in recent years, reaching the final in 2013 and the semifinals in 2011 (l. to Nadal both times).
"It was really hot out there," said del Potro. "But I mean, the weather conditions are the same for all the players, and you have to live with that. If you manage well that conditions, you can take a little difference. I did well today in the second set.
"Last season I had played even better than what I expected, [after] my injuries. I'm looking forward to keep going up in the rankings this year, trying to get closer to the top guys. If I stay healthy and I can play the same level as last year, I think I will be close to that goal."