Indian Wells, United States – Novak Djokovic shook off a mid-match lapse to beat Alejandro Gonzalez on Tuesday and set up a clash with red-hot Croatian Marin Cilic at the Indian Wells hardcourt tennis tournament.
Djokovic, the world number two and second seed, defeated world number 91 Gonzalez 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, but said he'll have to play better in the fourth round against Cilic.
“I thought I played really well from the start,” said Djokovic, who lifted the trophy in the California desert in 2008 and 2011. “Then suddenly I just had a big loss of concentration and allowed him to win the second set for no reason.”
Djokovic appeared to be cruising toward a win until a sloppy spell late in the second set saw Gonzalez break for a 5-3 lead and win the next game to bring the match level.
Djokovic regained control with a demoralizing break in the second game of the third set, in which Gonzalez had nine game points before the Serbian star converted his first break chance.
“In the end of the day, a win is a win,” Djokovic said. “I have to try to look on the positive side and get myself ready for the next one.”
Djokovic, 26, is seeking to jump-start a 2014 campaign that is off to a slow start.
His bid for a fourth straight Australian Open title ended in a quarter-final loss to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka, and he fell to Roger Federer in the semi-finals at Dubai in his only other tournament this year.
He knows Cilic, who beat 16th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-3, will be a dangerous opponent.
Cilic, who has begun working with former Croatian great Goran Ivanisevic, collected his 10th and 11th ATP titles at Zagreb and Delray Beach last month.
Cilic, the 24th seed, won five straight games to win the first set and take a 3-0 lead in the second.
The former top-10 player has lost only once in his last 17 matches, to Tomas Berdych in the final at Rotterdam.
“I obviously cannot allow myself to have these particular concentration lapses in the match at this level,” Djokovic said. “Especially in the next match when I'm playing Cilic, a guy who is in really good form and I think has gotten better in last couple of months.”
In other men's third-round matches in the $12 million combined ATP and WTA event, Spain's Fernando Verdasco sent eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet packing 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
Verdasco next faces either Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan or John Isner, the last American remaining in the men's field.
The women's quarter-finals took shape on Tuesday.
Top seed Li Na of China, the reigning Australian Open champion, was to take on Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak for a place in the last eight.
Second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland advanced, defeating France's Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-3.
Radwanska next faces seventh-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic, who beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1.
Sixth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep also secured a quarter-final berth, beating Canadian Eugenie Bouchard 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. She'll face Australian qualifier Casey Dellacqua, who advanced on a walkover when American Lauren Davis withdrew with a gastro-intestinal complaint. – Sapa-AFP