Rafael Nadal held off a potential spoiler on Wednesday as the fourth seed beat Alexander Zverev 6-7 (8-10), 6-0, 7-5 to squeeze into the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells Masters.
The fast-rising German Zverev had a match point in the ninth game of the final set, which he had led 4-1.
But the 18-year-old committed a rookie error with a volley to the net to toss away his winning chance against the 14-time grand slam champion.
Nadal won the game in a break for 5-4 and broke again to wrap up the win in two and a half hours.
"He's an amazing, talented player," the 29-year-old Spaniard said. "The most important thing for me was to fight to the end."
"I had the right tactics and energy, and the support of the crowd," he added.
"I was fighting the whole match. It's a great victory, I'm very happy about it - especially about the mentality on court, the spirit of fight during the whole match, believing that I could win a match the whole time even in the tougher situations," Nadal said.
Nadal broke on seven of his ten chances, firing 28 winners. Zverev committed nearly 50 unforced errors with his big go-for-broke game, which has drawn major attention at the Tennis Garden.
After two pressure-filled wins in previous rounds, top seed Novak Djokovic went through without incident in a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Spain's Feliciano Lopez.
"I'm actually glad to have a match like this with not much complications"," the four-time champion said. "I was very solid. I didn't allow him to come to the net too many times. It was a good performance."
Reigning French Open champion Stan Wawrinka slammed an easy overhead into the net late in a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) loss to David Goffin.
Moments after his lapse, the Swiss was packing his racquet bag after losing for only the fifth time this season.
The winner of two titles in two months on the ATP admitted he had a poor outing. "Not too great a day, not too great a level," the two-time grand slam champion said. "I didn't have the rhythm yet."
"I played a match without brains, let's put it that way. It was tough to find what I wanted to play and stay calm," he added.
"He deserved to win, I should have finished it before," he said.
Wawrinka will move on to Miami as the lone Swiss in the draw as Roger Federer delays his comeback from knee surgery until April.
The 10-5 Wawrinka failed to duplicate his best showings in the Californian desert, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2008 and 2011. His current win streak dating to Dubai last month was stopped at nine.
Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori stopped John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5) while Marin Cilic advanced over eighth seed Richard Gasquet.
Cilic beat Gasquet in two and a quarter hours, firing 15 aces after losing both of his previous matches to the French player.
Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic earned a place against Gael Monfils in the next round with an upset of Czech Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7). Monfils beat Argentine Federico Delbonis, who beat Andy Murray in the previous round, 6-3, 6-4.
On the women's side, a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) win for Agnieszka Radwanska over eighth seed Petra Kvitova will move the Pole into second in the world in Monday's rankings.
"It's always a good feeling to be back in this position. I wasn't there long during the last time, a few years ago," Radwansk said.
"There is always opportunity, but it's not about one or two tournaments. To be number one, you really have to play the whole season very good, and obviously catch Serena (Williams)," she said.
Top seed Williams was untroubled as she knocked out holder Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3 in 68 minutes with seven aces and four breaks of serve.
Friday, March 18, 2016 - 00:42
Saturday, March 19, 2016 - 07:25