Djokovic rallies to win in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Posted March 14, 2012, at 6:38 p.m.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic rallied to beat Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-2 on Wednesday and reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open, while No. 1 Victoria Azarenka improved to 21-0 on the season with a straight-set win on the women’s side.

Djokovic, the two-time defending champion, raced through the first set in 27 minutes before Andujar picked up his game. The Spaniard, who had lost his previous meeting against Djokovic in straight sets, held at love to even the second set 1-1, drawing encouraging cheers from the crowd at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Second-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Roger Federer were to play fourth-round matches later, completing a parade of the world’s top players on a sunny, 80-degree day in the Southern California desert.

Azarenka routed fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-2 in just over an hour to tie Serena Williams’ 2003 record of 21-0 to start a season. The Belarusian has already won three titles this year, and now has her sights on Martina Hingis’ record 37-0 start to the 1997 season.

Against Djokovic, Andujar held at 6-all to force a tiebreaker, which he won 7-5 as the Serb committed a slew of errors. Djokovic broke to open the third, then again to lead 5-2. He served out the match at 40-love, winning when Andujar’s forehand service return sailed wide.

“He surprised me with his aggressive approach. He was taking the ball early and was playing well,” Djokovic said. “Second set, I start playing a little bit more defensive, and that allowed him to come back to the match. All the credit for him to play the way he played. The second set I could have won, but I managed to stay calm mentally and just find my rhythm again.”

Andujar fell to 1-8 against top-10 players, although he hung in for a stretch against Djokovic, keeping the Serb on the run at the baseline with deep shots. The friendship between Djokovic and the 26-year-old Spaniard dates back to when they played each other in an under-16 match in Belgium.

“I had six match points, and I lost that match 7-6 in the third set,” Djokovic said. “We joke around a bit at the times when we were growing up.”

Radwanska won two of the final three games in the quarterfinal match to avoid a shutout in falling to 1-5 in her career against a No. 1-ranked player. It was her fourth loss to Azaranka this year, including a straight-set defeat last month in Doha when Azarenka injured her ankle.

She kept playing, but appeared to be in pain and was visibly distraught. Radwanska later said she “lost a lot of respect” for Azarenka because her behavior wasn’t a good image for women’s tennis. Azarenka said Tuesday that she never had a problem with Radwanska, and the two women briefly clasped hands at the end of Wednesday’s match before walking away.

The top-ranked American doubles duo of twins Bob and Mike Bryan withdrew from their quarterfinal match when Mike fell ill, although tournament officials didn’t immediately say whether he has the same viral illness that has forced at least eight players out of the two-week tournament.

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