Novak Djokovic admitted it wasn’t pretty, but the world No. 1 got the job done on Tuesday with a 7-6(4), 6-1 third-round victory over Grigor Dimitrov at the ATP Masters/WTA BNP Paribas Open.
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.
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(5), 6-7(7), 7-5.
World No. 3 Andy Murray, playing his first tournament since losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final in January, defeated 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. 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 outlasted 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(4), 7-6(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), 7-6(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.
Men: Third round: Milos Raonic bt Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-3; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt Mardy Fish 7-6(4), 7-6(0); Sam Querrey bt Marinko Matosevic 7-6(5), 6-7(7), 7-5; Novak Djokovic bt Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(4), 6-1; Tommy Haas bt Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6(2); Juan Martin del Potro bt Bjorn Phau 6-2, 7-5; Carlos Berlocq bt Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-2; Andy Murray bt Lu Yen-Hsun 6-3, 6-2.
Women: Fourth round: Petra Kvitova bt Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 6-3; Sara Errani bt Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-2; Maria Sharapova bt Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 7-5, 6-0; Victoria Azarenka bt Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 6-1; Maria Kirilenko bt Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 4-6, 7-5; Samantha Stosur bt Mona Barthel 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; Angelique Kerber bt Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 7-5; Caroline Wozniacki bt Nadia Petrova 7-6(3), 6-3.