Novak Djokovic began his Indian Wells title-defense campaign on a strong note by beating Cypriot old hand Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets on Saturday night. Also advancing to the third round on Saturday was world no.4 Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, David Ferrer, Ernests Gulbis, Bernard Tomic, John Isner, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Among women, the major news concerned the second round victories for No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 32 Victoria Azarenka. The two former champions will now meet each other in a highly awaited third-round match.
Three-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic required less than an hour to get past Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis, 6-1, 6-3 and improved his ATP Head2Head record against Baghdatis to 8-0. It was an emphatic performance from the world’s best tennis player against Baghdatis, who was once a force to reckon with in the ATP circuit. Djokovic’s third round opponent will be Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. In playing against Djokovic, the Cypriot was trying to achieve an upset victory over the world’s top ranked player having already done so against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, when they were ranked No.1. But the Serb sent Baghdatis in a denial mode. Djokovic is aiming to join Federer as the only player to win Indian Wells title four times. The top seed is seeking another landmark of in the Open Era to win 50 titles.
Great Britain’s Andy Murray had an easy passage into the third round, when he beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-1 to set up his third round match against Germany’ Philipp Kohlschreiber. Murray has played against the German on two previous occasions for a 1-1 record. Their last encounter was a long-drawn five-set affair at 2014 Roland Garros that Murray won with a 12-10 victory in the final set. Murray now has a 21-9 career record at Indian Wells, including finishing as runners-up in 2009. Since then, however, the scot has never gone past the quarterfinals. In 2014, he lost to Canada’s Milos Raonic in the fourth round.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori scored an easy victory 6-4, 6-4 against Mardy Fish’s conqueror Ryan Harrison of USA and he will now face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the third round. In the best men’s singles match on Saturday, David Ferrer was involved in an epic battle with Croatia’s Ivan Dodig before finally coming through 6-4, 1-6, 7-6. After winning the first set, Ferrer lost his rhythm and allowed Dodig to bounce back in the second. The third set went to a tie-breaker, in which Dodig looked like causing an upset but Ferrer pulled himself together and emerged victorious in the end.
In other notable men’s singles matches, Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated 23rd seeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 5-7, 6-3; Bernard Tomic beat Croat teenager Borna Coric 6-3, 6-4; Ernests Gulbis defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-4, 6-1; Feliciano Lopez beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-7, 6-4, 6-4; Tommy Robredo beat Andrey Golubev 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 and Canada’s 6th seed Milos Raonic defeated Italy’s Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4 to set up a third round clash with Alexandr Dolgopolov. The only big upset on Saturday was the defeat of no.10 seed Marin Cilic, who tamely went down 4-6, 4-6 against Argentine Juan Monaco.
In women’s matches, two former world no.1 players and Indian Wells title winners on one occasion each, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka will have a third round showdown. Sharapova took on Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in a match that saw the Russian star easily claim the first set 6-1. Wickmayer showed strong resistance and saved four match points but Sharapova finally took the match 6-1, 7-5. The Russian will now take Victoria Azarenka, who had an easy 6-2, 6-4 win against another Belgian Kirsten Flipkens. After Azarenka claimed the first set, Flipkens began the second on a solid note to open a 4-2 lead in the second set. But the Bulgarian reeled off 4 points in row with her potent backcourt display to complete the match. Vika leads the head-to-head count 7-6 against Maria but the Russian has won in their last two matches.
Earlier on Saturday, no.4 seed Caroline Wozniacki beat Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur 7-6, 6-4; no.16 seed Madison Keys won against Czech girl Klara Koukalova 6-3, 6-2; Serbia’s 18th seed Jelena Janokovic came through with a 6-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory against American Lauren Davis; Ana Ivanovic beat Kazhakh woman Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1; Eugenie Bouchard reached the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Czech Lucie Hradecka; Simona Halep had a rather tough time against Russia’s Daria Gavrilova before going through 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 and defending champion Italy’s Flavia Penetta beat Madison Brengle of USA 6-4. 6-2.