Five-time former champion Novak Djokovic brought his best tennis in a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Tuesday night in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Victory sees Djokovic tie Pete Sampras for 10th in the Open Era with 762 victories overall and sees him join Roger Federer (331) and Rafael Nadal (318) as the third player to earn 300 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 victories.
It’s a match-up that typically brings out the best in both players, and they did not disappoint on a packed Stadium 1, with Djokovic upping his game when it mattered in surging to the finish line in two hours and 18 minutes.
The ‘group of death’ section does not get any easier for Djokovic, who advances to a fourth-round meeting with Nick Kyrgios. The 21-year-old Australian, who beat Alexander Zverev earlier in the day, defeated Djokovic in their first tour meeting last week in the Acapulco quarterfinals.
"There's always a lot at stake when you play a quality player like Delpo is," said Djokovic. "He's a big match player. I knew coming into the match it was going to be very important for me to be fired up and bring that intensity to the court in order to bring my A-game. That's what was required for me to win that match.
"The third set was the best tennis I've played this year. To be able to break him two times in a set was great. I hope I can carry this confidence level, especially on the return, into tomorrow's match because I'm going to need it. I lost to Nick in Acapulco and he was serving extremely well. I'm hoping I can get a better result."
Playing del Potro for the second time in two weeks, after beating the Argentine in three tight sets in the Acapulco second round, Djokovic rallied from losing his serve in the first game to break del Potro twice and seal the opener. The Tandil native struck back in the second set, racing into a 4-1 double break lead, which proved enough to level the contest.
Watch Djokovic Hot Shot
But Djokovic stepped up in the decider, harnessing del Potro’s power and firing himself up as he broke in the fourth and sixth games to clinch victory. The Serbian improved to a 13-3 mark over del Potro in their head-to-head.
The 29-year-old Djokovic has compiled a 49-6 mark at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament and has lifted the trophy the past three years. Indeed, del Potro was the player responsible for Djokovic’s last defeat in the desert, beating the Serbian in the 2013 semifinals.