Kevin Anderson handed Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka his first defeat of the year on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells ATP Masters.
South Africa’s Anderson beat Wawrinka 7-6 (7/1), 4-6, 6-1 to end Wawrinka’s run of 13 straight match wins to open 2014, which included a title run in Chennai before his maiden Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne.
“I knew it’s going to happen,” Wawrinka said. “I’m not going to keep winning every tournament.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray of Britain was another fourth-round casualty, falling 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
However, second-seeded Novak Djokovic turned back the challenge of in-form Croatian Marin Cilic, rallying for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
“It was very tough,” Djokovic said. “Marin was by far the better player the first 45 minutes. He was striking the ball incredibly well.
“I just tried to stay calm and composed and believe that I could come back,” added Djokovic, who posted his eighth victory over Cilic in as many meetings.
Djokovic next faces Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Wawrinka’s exit ended the possibility of an all-Swiss quarter-final between him and Roger Federer.
Instead, Anderson will face Federer, a four-time champion in the California desert who edged German veteran Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-4.
Wawrinka fought back from an early break in the second set force a third, but said he never really felt comfortable.
“It took me a lot of energy to come back here, to practice well, to win the first two matches,” said Wawrinka, who had not played an ATP tournament since the Australian Open. “Mentally, I wasn’t ready.”
Anderson, who had lost three prior matches against Wawrinka, said he adopted an aggressive strategy based on their most recent meeting — when Wawrinka beat him in three sets in Shanghai last year.
“We had a really close match,” Anderson said. “I lost in a third set breaker. Just taking what I could from that match, one of the things was to try to be as aggressive as I can when possible.”
Like Wawrinka, Murray left feeling dissatisfied with himself.
He broke the mighty Raonic serve for a 2-1 lead in the third set, then his game deserted him.
“The third set was just a bad, bad set of tennis,” said Murray, who has yet to reach a final since having back surgery in September last year. “That’s what’s disappointing for me, because the rest of the match was OK.”
After gaining the advantage in the third, Murray was immediately broken at love, and Raonic broke him again for a 4-2 lead he would not surrender.
“I think his mistakes were critical that he made in that first break I got,” Raonic said. “But then I felt like I sort of got going a bit more after that.”
Raonic set up a quarter-final clash with Alexandr Dolgopolov. The 28th-seeded Ukrainian showed no sign of a let-down after his third-round ouster of world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, beating Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4.
Raonic was not surprised to find himself facing world No. 31 Dolgopolov from a quarter of the draw that included both Nadal and Murray.
He said Wawrinka’s Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne had shown players like himself and Dolgopolov that the game’s biggest names — Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray — were indeed beatable.
“I think everybody sort of in that top-10 range, also a little bit outside trying to break through, took a deep breath and said, ‘Why can’t that be me?’” Raonic said.
Raonic and Anderson, both known for their big serves, said the desert hardcourts are also ideally suited to their games, a belief echoed by American John Isner.
“For guys that are big, it’s a perfect surface for us,” said Isner, who beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 and will face Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in the quarters. “I don’t think it’s any surprise that myself, Milos, and Kevin are all still alive in this tournament.”