Djokovic Sets Del Potro Clash
Five-time former champion Novak Djokovic came through a tough test against Kyle Edmund on Sunday to advance to a BNP Paribas Open third-round clash against Juan Martin del Potro. 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 the 6-4, 7-6(5) 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. 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.
"I think I played very well in the first set. Second set was obviously up and down," Djokovic said. "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."
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 del Potro.
It will be the pair’s 17th contest, and they’re rarely routine. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP 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.
Djokovic is looking for a return to top form, after a surprise defeat to Denis Istomin in the Australian Open second round preceded a quarter-final exit against Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco. Should he find a way past del Potro, Djokovic could earn a shot at revenge against Kyrgios in the fourth-round before a potential quarter-final showdown with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
"I'm playing Del Potro now. I have to give it all," Djokovic said. "I can't really pace myself and think about what's coming up after that, because I really have a tough player to beat in the next round."
In an all-Argentine clash earlier, 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.
"It has been a great year for me. Last season, I played even better than what I expected with my injuries. I'm looking forward to keep going up the rankings this year, trying to get closer to the top guys," said del Potro. "If I stay healthy and play at the same level as last year, I think I will be close to that goal."
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. 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 31st seed 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).