With back against the wall, Djokovic fights off Delbonis in Miami

With back against the wall, Djokovic fights off Delbonis in Miami

"Credit to Federico, he stepped in. He was the one controlling the pace. I backed up."

Novak Djokovic is breathing a sigh of relief after surviving a tough third round match at the Miami Open. With his back pushed against the wall on Sunday, he was able to pass a tough test presented by No. 83-ranked Federico Delbonis, winning the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

Djokovic, who suffered a devastating loss at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Indian Wells third round almost two weeks ago, looked out of sorts at times, causing him to have a meltdown moment during the match. After securing an early break but failing to serve out the first set, the Serb showed signs of frustration. Also bothering him was the stadium's lighting, which led to an interesting exchange with the umpire. Despite all that, he was able to come through, taking the set 7-5.  

The second set had its own flavor of drama, which included racquet-smashing, as things got way more interesting. Djokovic was up 3-1 when Delbonis decided to change the plot by winning the next three games and stealing the set from the Serb. Unfortunately for the unseeded 28-year-old, he gave up his momentum when he took a medical timeout to get treatment on his left foot. This gave the 15-time Grand Slam champion an opportunity to regroup, and then race to the finish line, only dropping one game in the decider.

"To be honest, I lost my focus," said Djokovic. "I should have done better mentally than I did in the first set and also the end of second set. I managed to really play well the last couple games of the first set, to go up a break and put myself in front, but then I played a couple of really bad service games.

"Credit to Federico, he stepped in. He was the one controlling the pace. I backed up. I didn't have that much depth and power in my shots and he used it. He didn't have anything to lose. I think the first two, three games of the third set were crucial, really fighting, trying to be present, regain the positioning on the court more than anything. I think the last four games were terrific, so I ended up in a positive way."

Djokovic, who is aiming for his seventh Miami Open title, will play No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard took out Fabio Fognini—the Serb’s doubles partner at this year’s Indian Wells. The top seed leads their head-to-head 7-2.