Serb extends his unbeaten run in 2013 with third-round win in the US.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic ground out a straight-sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov at Indian Wells, advancing to the fourth round 7-6 (7/4) 6-1.
Djokovic, unbeaten in a 2013 campaign that so far includes a fourth Australian Open title and an ATP triumph in Dubai, was on the ropes in the opening set against the 21-year-old Bulgarian, who raced to a 4-1 lead and served for the set at 5-3.
But Dimitrov served up four double faults in the ninth game and was broken, and that was the only opening that Djokovic needed.
“It was not really a beautiful match to watch,” Djokovic said. “There were a lot of unforced errors, and we both looked quite sluggish on the court, very slow.
“In these kind of matches, where both of us don’t feel so dynamic on the court, I knew that experience will kick in and can be decisive.
“That’s actually what happened. He made four double faults which is very unusual to see in men’s tennis nowadays, but, look, that’s tennis. Turned it around, and from then on I felt a little bit better.”
The Serbian star battled back to win in 67 minutes. He raced to a 5-0 lead en route to winning the first-set tiebreaker and didn’t face a break point in the second frame.
Djokovic improved to 15-0 in 2013 and 20-0 since October 31 — when he lost to American Sam Querrey in the Paris Masters.
He’ll get a chance to avenge that defeat in a fourth-round meeting with Querrey, who edged Australian Marinko Matosevic 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (7/9), 7-5.
World No. 3 Andy Murray, playing his first tournament since losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final in January, got past tenacious Taiwanese Lu Yen-Hsun 6-3, 6-2.
Murray gained a 3-2 lead in the opening set with a break in the fifth game, but he was under pressure on his serve and had to fend off five break points in the opening frame.
Two of those came in the eighth game, but he finished it off with two aces to lead 5-3 and broke Lu a second time to pocket the set.
“I didn’t serve particularly well to get myself into those situations, and then I served well to get myself out of some tough situations,” Murray said.
The Scot next faces Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Eighth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Canadian Milos Raonic set up a rematch of their record-breaking London Olympics clash, when Tsonga out-lasted Raonic 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in the second round.
The 48-game final set was the longest single set in Olympic history.
Tsonga held off American Mardy Fish 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/0) while Raonic rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Croatian Marin Cilic.
Germany’s Tommy Haas saved a match point en route to a 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/2) victory over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro.
His reward is a fourth-round match against seventh-seeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, who beat German Bjorn Phau 6-2, 7-5.
Top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka and second-seeded Maria Sharapova led the way into the women’s quarter-finals of this combined ATP Masters and WTA event.
Azarenka shook off a sore ankle to beat Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 6-1 and Sharapova stepped up her game in the second set to beat 87th-ranked Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 7-5, 6-0.