INDIAN WELLS, AFP: Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka continued his dominance of Philipp Kohlschreiber, rolling past the German 7-5, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the ATP Indian Wells Masters.
Wawrinka recorded his fifth victory over Kohlschreiber in as many meetings in a performance that left him cautiously encouraged about his prospects of making it past the quarter-finals in the California desert for the first time.
"It was a really good match," said Wawrinka, who owns three Grand Slam titles but has won just one of the tour's coveted Masters titles.
"The first set was not easy, for sure, but in general I'm happy with my game. I was serving well. I think I'm moving better and better and it's all positive so far."
A break in each set was enough for Wawrinka, who didn't face a break point himself as he advanced to a meeting with lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, who staged a remarkable rally to get past 13th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
The 21-year-old from Mie saved a match point against his own serve in the 10th game of the second set.
After Nishioka forced the decisive set by winning the tiebreaker, the two traded breaks to open the third before Nishioka broke for a 2-1.
Although Berdych saved one match point in the ninth game, Nishioka closed it out in the next with a love game to reach the fourth round of a Masters tournament for the first time.
"It's going to be interesting. I've never practiced with him, so it's going to be the first time we going to be against each other."
Wawrinka is the highest-ranked player remaining in the top half of the draw after world number one Andy Murray's shock loss to 129th-ranked qualifier Vasek Pospisil in the second round.
With superstars Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all jammed into the bottom quarter of the draw, Wawrinka's path looks wide open.
But the Swiss said he didn't think of it that way.
"It's not like I have been in a lot of semi-finals, finals in Masters 1000," he said. "So I need to focus on every match."
Eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem powered into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Germany's Mischa Zverev.
World number nine Thiem, riding high after winning the ATP title in Rio in February, had little trouble from Zverev's serve-and-volley style.
Although the German saved five match points in the ninth game of the second set, Thiem served out the victory in the next game in less than an hour.
Thiem next faces 10th-seeded Gael Monfils, who dispatched American John Isner 6-2, 6-4 in just 68 minutes.
Elsewhere, Pospisil was unable to build on the best win of his career falling to fellow qualifier Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 7-5 just two days after toppling Murray.
Pospisil served for the match at 5-3 in the third set but was broken to love, then failed to convert a match.
In the women's section, Angelique Kerber might yet celebrate her return to number one with an Indian Wells title after battling past Pauline Parmentier 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the fourth round.
Parmentier, the world number 62 from France, had the two-time Grand Slam champion from Germany on the ropes with a break and a 4-1 lead in the third set.
But Kerber fought back with a break in the seventh game and another in a marathon 11th game that gave her a 6-5 lead and a chance to serve for the match.
"I think I was starting to believe in myself again and trying to take this challenge and trying to play point by point," Kerber said of her mindset after going down a break in the deciding set.
"I was not thinking about what has happened before, just going for it and trying to move in good, bring a lot of balls back, and going for it when I have the chance."
Kerber, who rose to number one in the world with her US Open triumph last year, is set to regain the summit no matter how far she goes this week thanks to the injury withdrawal of Serena Williams.
She needed two hours and 33 minutes in the baking sun on Stadium Court to get past Parmentier, who until this year had never won a match at Indian Wells in five prior appearances.
Kerber sealed it on her third match point -- but not before Parmentier had one last chance to break in the final game.
Kerber next faces Russian Elena Vesnina, a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 winner over Hungarian Timea Babos.
Fourth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, yet to regain peak form in the wake of a nagging knee injury, was dispatched by in-form Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-3.
France's Mladenovic, who has already lifted one trophy and reached another WTA final in 2017, had no trouble notching another top-five win.
"I perfectly played the game plan I had," Mladenovic said. "Solid at times, make her play balls and making her take some risk. Sometimes when I had the shorter (ball) stepping in, playing my heavy shots with the forehand. I think that worked pretty well today."
Halep, the 2015 Indian Wells champion, wasn't too discouraged, saying the knee trouble that forced her to pull out of St. Petersburg before her quarter-final in February had since limited her training.
"After the first set my legs were gone," Halep said. "My tennis legs were not here yet."
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams booked a fourth-round berth with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Lucie Safarova.
Williams, seeded 12th in her second tournament since a runner-up finish to her sister Serena in the Australian Open in January, had saved three match points en route to a second-round victory over Jelena Jankovic, but needed no heroics against the 40th-ranked Czech.
"It's never easy to play a lefty because you feel the ball coming from all different directions. You feel unbalanced, but my focus was so laser that it felt good to compete in these conditions," said Williams who belted 15 winners with just nine unforced errors, breaking Safarova four times."
The American next faces China's Peng Shuai, who ousted sixth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 6-4.
American Madison Keys, playing her first event of the year after surgery on her left wrist, eased past Japan's Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-4.