Novak Djokovic opened his bid for a third straight Indian Wells title on Sunday night by surviving an unexpected challenge from American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo, 2-6 6-1 6-2.
The 22-year-old Fratangelo was the French Open boys’ champion in 2011 and turned pro in 2012, but has been playing almost exclusively on the satellite tours.
Ranked No.149, his first-round win Friday was his first in four matches on the ATP World Tour.
He took a 4-0 lead in the opening set and kept the match interesting until Djokovic got back-to-back service breaks en route to winning the final five games.
“He deserved every point he got,” Djokovic said. “He played a great match, especially in the first set.”
Djokovic, who has a 17-1 record this season, was joined in having some trouble on Sunday by Rafael Nadal.
Fourth-seeded Nadal beat Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-2 2-6 6-4.
Nadal got a tenuous grip on the match when a backhand passing shot gave him a 30-0 lead with Muller serving in the final game, and Muller double-faulted to make it 0-40.
Nadal gave two points back on errant forehands, then won it with a forehand return that handcuffed Muller as he moved to the net.
“He’s a very, very difficult player, especially in these conditions,” Nadal said of his left-handed opponent.
“It’s very, very difficult to play. You have to be focused all the time and put as many balls in the court as you can and wait for your moment.”
Men’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan got his tournament underway with a 6-3 6-3 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan; No.7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France beat countryman Vincent Millot; and No.31 Sam Querrey of the US overcame Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
Other winners on Sunday included John Isner, Dominic Thiem, Gilles Simon, Jack Sock and Fernando Verdasco.
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