Stan Wawrinka overcame a spirited effort from 21-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) on Wednesday to return to the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals for the third time. The Swiss star had to dig deep against Nishioka, who was trying to gain his first win against a Top 10 player and become the first lucky loser in tournament history, since 1976, to reach the last eight.
The Swiss right-hander will try to reach his first Indian Wells semi-final when he meets Gael Monfils or Dominic Thiem in the last eight. Wawrinka also reached the quarterfinals in 2008 (l. to Djokovic) and 2011 (l. to Federer).
"It was a really tough match," said Wawrinka. "He served twice for the match. He had a breaker in the third.
"I wasn't playing great. I was not moving well at the beginning. I was a little bit hesitant with my game. I think in general in the third set I played better than the two first sets. In general I was finding a little bit better my game. I was playing a little bit more aggressive. I was more calm, making more long rallies.
"I'm really happy to get through for sure. You have to be a little bit lucky when he served twice for the match, but I'm happy to fight well enough to give me a chance to play tomorrow night."
He struggled at the start on Wednesday evening, though, as Nishioka chased down almost everything and frustrated the big-hitting right-hander with his loopy left-handed forehand. Nishioka broke Wawrinka to begin their fourth-round match, when Wawrinka sprayed a sitting forehand long, one of his 21 unforced errors in the first set, compared to four winners.
It was the first time Wawrinka had lost his serve in Indian Wells this year. He had held 21 consecutive times to start the tournament.
He settled his game in the second set, though, twice breaking Nishioka to force a decider. But Nishioka again jumped on top to start the third set, crushing a forehand that bounced off the line and jammed the Swiss star.
Watch Nishioka Hot Shot
But with the match on the line, Wawrinka showed how he's earned his plethora of nicknames – 'Stan The Man', 'Stanimal' – throughout the years. The 31 year old twice broke Nishioka when he tried to serve out the match, at 5-4 and 6-5. On his second match point during the tie-break, Wawrinka belted a forehand that even the speedy Nishioka couldn't track down, and Wawrinka raised his arms in celebration – and relief.
Wawrinka goes on to face eighth seed Dominic Thiem, who defeated Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in the last match of the day. The Austrian needed just 68 minutes to advance, breaking Monfils three times as he denied the Frenchman his 400th tour-level win.
Wawrinka leads Thiem 2-1 in their head-to-head, though this will be their first clash for almost two years. The 23-year-old Thiem is bidding to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal and build on his recent good run of form, which saw him win his eighth ATP World Tour title last month on clay in Rio de Janeiro (d. Carreno Busta).