Djokovic Rallies Past Cilic; Isner, Gulbis Advance
Indian Wells, U.S.A.
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic looked in danger of becoming the latest Top 10 casualty in a late-night match Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Open, but recovered to defeat in-form Croatian Marin Cilic 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
After winning just three points on return in the opening set, Djokovic broke Cilic twice in the second set and then opened a 3-0 lead in the third, closing out the victory after one hour and 45 minutes.
"I was composed and mentally calm, regardless of the score line," said Djokovic. "I just accepted the fact that he came out of the blocks better than I did. He was very aggressive, not missing at all, serving incredibly fast and accurate. I couldn't do much really. I was forced to back up.
"I believed that I could come back. The second set was a whole new story. I reset myself and told myself it was the start of the match. I forgot about the first set and the second and third went really well. It was the intensity I want to have and I hope to keep it up."
He improved to an 8-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Cilic, who had become the first player to record 20 match wins this season with his third-round victory over Tommy Robredo. Cilic had reached three straight finals in the month of February.
Djokovic advances to the Indian Wells quarter-finals for a seventh time and will play unseeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau for a place in the semi-finals. Benneteau beat Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-6(4).
"You have to accept the fact that everybody's improving," Djokovic said. "They all want to get better and win against you as a top player. That's another reason to train hard, to get yourself better and compete with these guys. It's hard at the moment for any top player to stay up there. I'm aware of what's going on. On a positive note, it's good for the sport, to have different faces winning major tournaments."
Djokovic is bidding to win the BNP Paribas Open title for a third time, following his triumphs in 2008 and ’11, while Federer is looking to win for a fifth.
Isner was broken just once for his 10th match win of the season. He has now won 35 of his 36 service games at this year’s ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.
Earlier in the day, Gulbis advanced to his fifth ATP World Tour quarter-final (or better) this season when he came through a fiery 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2 victory against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Gulbis, who led by a set and 3-1, had to work hard for his victory in two hours and 24 minutes. The World No. 22 struck 38 winners and converted four of his 12 break point opportunities. He also beat Bautista Agut en route to the Open 13 title at Marseille last month.