Novak Djokovic passed a tough first test at Indian Wells to maintain his perfect record for the season and reach the third round of the year’s first Masters tournament.
The world number one defeated Fabio Fognini 6-0, 5-7, 6-2, the struggles he encountered against the 36th-ranked Italian echoing world number three Andy Murray’s battle to a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 victory over unheralded Russian Evgeny Donskoy.
“It was definitely a difficult challenge,” said Djokovic. “Fabio played well towards the end of the second set, but it was all my fault. I had a break for 4-2 up and I played a terrible game.
After that it was very even. It could have gone either way.”
Meanwhile, Murray, playing his first match since falling to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, quickly found himself down 5-1 to Donskoy – ranked 83rd in the world.
Although the slow start raised unwelcome memories of his first-match exits here in each of the past two years, Murray won four straight games to level the set.
However, he was unable to convert any of six break chances in the 11th game and Donskoy broke him for a third time in the 12th game to pocket the set.
Murray, however, had found his range and made short work of the second and third sets.
In other matches, seventh-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko, but eighth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France had to fight past determined US wild card James Blake 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.
It was a bit of a slog for the top women as well.
Third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland dropped a first-set tiebreaker but rallied for a 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Fifth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, had slightly less trouble emerging with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, while sixth-seeded Italian Sara Errani sailed through, defeating Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-1.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2013.