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Jack Sock reacts after fending off four match points to deny Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.

Sock Saves 4MPs vs. Dimitrov

Top-ranked American stages comeback, Nishikori cruises

Jack Sock saved four match points as he upset Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday. The American fended off three match points from 0/40 down on serve as he levelled at 5-5 in the decider and saved another down 6/7 in the tie-break, before converting his second opportunity as Dimitrov hit a forehand long to prevail in two hours and 26 minutes.

The 24-year-old Sock has made a strong start to 2017, winning titles in Auckland (d. Sousa) and Delray Beach (d. Raonic). His third victory in four meetings with Dimitrov takes him to a 13-2 mark on the season and sets up a fourth-round clash with Malek Jaziri.

“I was just praying I got some good serves and forehands. I think everyone kind of knew what I wanted to do on those points,” Sock said of staring down three match points on serve. “I was able to hit two good serves the first two points. And the 30-40 forehand I just said, ‘Go for it’. I have hit it thousands, millions of times in my life.

I have said at the start of the year, if I'm going to lose to someone, it's going to be on my terms, the tennis that I play. I'm not going to go out and play a match where I'm playing defensive or not my game necessarily.”

 Sock, who is at a career-high No. 18 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is looking to reach his third straight Masters 1000 quarter-final. He has a 1-0 record over Jaziri, beating the Tunisian in a third set tie-break in Stockholm last year.

Jaziri ended Taylor Fritz’s run, beating the American wild card 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 40 minutes. The Tunisian had only won four main draw Masters 1000 matches coming into Indian Wells and will look to reach his first quarter-final.

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Earlier, fourth seed Kei Nishikori cruised into the fourth round as he dismissed Gilles Muller 6-2, 6-2. Muller, who won his first ATP World Tour title in Sydney at the start of the year (d. Evans), paid the price for making only 49 per cent of his first serves as Nishikori broke him four times in the 72-minute match.

The 27-year-old Nishikori is a two-time finalist on the ATP World Tour this season, finishing runner-up in Brisbane (l. to Dimitrov) and Buenos Aires (l. to Dolgopolov). The Japanese star is looking to win his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown this week and goes on to face Donald Young.

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Young needed seven match points in a nervy finish to close out a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory over 14th seed Lucas Pouille. The American had two match points when leading 5-1 in the decider. He then served for the win at 5-2 and squandered a further two match points. He missed a fifth chance as Pouille held for 3-5, before closing it out at the second time of asking on serve after one hour and 47 minutes.

“At the end, to fight through quite a bit of nerves, that's always great as well. You've got to keep putting yourself in those positions and, when you come through them, it gives you even more confidence,” Young said.

Looking to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter-final, the 27-year-old Young will need to overturn an 0-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head series record against former US Open finalist Nishikori. The No. 60-ranked Young, who uses a Tecnifibre racquet, came into Indian Wells on a strong run of form, having reached back-to-back semi-finals in Memphis (l. to Harrison) and Delray Beach (l. to Sock) last month.

“It's exciting to come through and be playing consistent at least for the start of the year and just to beat back-to-back quality opponents, too,” said Young, who beat Sam Querrey in the second round. “Kei, he's a great player. He's been playing well for a very long time. We grew up together. So hopefully I can go out there and play well, and just keep doing the right things and putting myself in the right position and playing the way I want to play and see what happens.” 

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