The last two US Open champions, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, both struggled on Sunday needing three sets to advance into the Indian Wells third round. Murray, who had lost three straight matches in the desert, dropped his opening set to Evegeny Donskoy before right the ship to pull away for a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.
“Once I got into more of a rhythm, I was able to dictate more of the points,” said Murray. “But he played some good stuff. He doesn’t force anything. I think he’s pretty smart on the court, too.”
Murray had lost the last two years in this round to Donald Young in 2011 and last year to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The Scot who reached the Indian Wells final in 2009 moves on to a third round date on Tuesday with Yen-Hsun Lu. He’s now won eight straight in the States.
Djokovic played later in the day and initially seemed to be in cruise mode dominating the drama queen Fabio Fognini. But the Italian pushed Djokovic winning the second before the World No. 1 regained command in the third.
“Mentally I was there,” said Djokovic, a two-time Indian Wells champ. “Confidence level is high obviously because of the run I had this year. Game wise, everything works. I had a very bad game at 4-2, couple of unforced errors, got him back in the match. Next thing you know, we’re one set all and a couple of tight games.
“But look, I’m not concerned. I know I have been in this situation before where I had minor setbacks in a match, especially in the opening matches where I’m trying to get used to the court, the conditions, and so forth. He’s a good player on this surface. He loves playing on slow surfaces. He made me work. He made me earn my points. In the end, I have done what I needed to do. The W is there, so I feel good about myself.”
Fognini drops to 1-20 career against Top 10 players. Djokovic has now won his last 19 matches since being upset by Sam Querrey in Paris. The Serb now gets the Grigor Dimitrov.
Also on Sunday, another US Open champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, shook off former Top 5 Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-4. Kei Nishikori, Tommy Haas, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Almagro were other seeded winners along with Mardy Fish who made a successful return to tennis with a tough three set 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over countryman Bobby Reynolds.
Fish had been off the tour dealing with heart issues since withdrawing from a fourth round match against Roger Federer at the US Open. And today, the 31-year-old was down a break in the third before winning the last four games of the match.
“It’s been a tough few months, for sure. You sort of feel like it was a win just to get back out there,” said Fish who reached the Indian Wells final in 2008. “There are a lot of people that have sort of dealt with what I’ve dealt with and not come back. It’s nice to just play, first and foremost, and then you get out there and you want to win.”
In the women’s draw, former champion Maria Sharapova advanced as did Aga Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and Jamie Hampton who’s the lone American woman left in the field.
“I thought it was a tough one,” said Sharapova after a 7-5, 6-3 win over Carla Suarez-Navarro. “She’s dangerous. She’s beaten top players in Grand Slams before. She has a really solid game, a lot of variety, but she can hit the ball, as well. A few things that I definitely want to improve for the next one. But I was happy I got through on not a great day.”
On tap tomorrow are six former No. 1s: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka. Nadal has won his last 10 matches. Azarenka is undefeated on the year at 15-0.
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
 A Kerber (GER) vs  Y Wickmayer (BEL) – WTA
 R Nadal (ESP) vs L Mayer (ARG) – ATP
Not Before 2:30 PM
 E Vesnina (RUS) vs  C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
I Dodig (CRO) vs  R Federer (SUI) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 V Azarenka (BLR) vs  K Flipkens (BEL) – WTA
Not Before 8:30 PM
L Hewitt (AUS) vs  S Wawrinka (SUI) – ATP
STADIUM 2 start 11:00 am
J Nieminen (FIN) vs K Anderson (RSA) – ATP
 A Seppi (ITA) vs [Q] E Gulbis (LAT) – ATP
 T Berdych (CZE) vs  F Mayer (GER) – ATP
Not Before 5:00 PM
 A Ivanovic (SRB) vs  M Barthel (GER) – WTA
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) – ATP
[WC] A Murray (GBR) / J Murray (GBR) vs T Huey (PHI) / J Janowicz (POL) – ATP
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Andy Murray Won’t Play Dubai In 2013, He’ll Focus On Indian Wells
The Nightmare Is Over: ATP Finally Approves The Indian Wells Prize Money Increase