The world no. 1 and five-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic is off to a winning start in the desert, beating a qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6, 6-2 in an hour and 29 minutes for his 333rd Masters 1000 win and the 50th at this event!
Djokovic was 5-3 down in the opening set and caught the last train to remain in it with a late break in game ten, taking the tie break 7-5 and sailing through the rest of the match for the place in the third round and the 11th win in 12 encounters this season.
Three years ago, Bjorn managed to take a set out of Novak here in the desert and he was on a steady course this night as well, staying toe to toe with the Serb from the baseline and hitting well from both wings until that crucial game at 5-4 when he wasted the advantage to give Novak the momentum.
The Serb finished the match with 28 winners and 20 unforced errors, dominating with his forehand and creating the gap in the shortest and mid-range rallies to leave Bjorn behind even though he struggled a little bit from the backhand wing before finding the range.
Fratangelo moved in front with a forehand winner in game five, forcing an error from Novak's backhand in the following game to save a break point and cement the advantage, serving for the set at 5-4. In the meanwhile, Djokovic regained his composure and broke back in game ten following a stellar defense and the 30-shot rally that proved to be very important.
From 4-2 down in the breaker, Bjorn fought back to 5-4 but Novak won the next two points on the return, creating a set point that he converted with a forced error from Bjorn in the 12th point to grab the opener in 55 minutes.
As was expected, the second set proved to be one-way traffic and Djokovic forged an instant lead with a break in the first game, extending the lead after a double fault from Fratangelo in game five and sealing the deal with a forehand winner in game eight.
After the match, Novak went on to shake hands with Pete Sampras who was there to watch the player who passed him on the eternal list of Major champions at the Australian Open. "Yeah, I have to admit I was a bit nervous.
I don't get to see Pete that often. I was pleasantly surprised to see him watching my match. It's a thrill to see someone that I looked up to when I was a kid. I think I tried too hard in the first set to impress him (laughter).
It bounced back against me in a way. But, it was nice and I went up to him and I thanked him for coming. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to see him privately, as well."