Angelique Kerber might still get to celebrate her return to world No 1 with an Indian Wells title after battling past Pauline Parmentier 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the fourth round in California on Monday.
Parmentier, the world number 62 from France, had the two-time Grand Slam champion from Germany on the ropes with a break for 3-1 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.
“At the end I think it was a tough match and a high level of play from both of us,” Kerber said. “I’m just happy to win the match.”
Kerber, who rose to No 1 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 faced a dangerous third-round meeting with France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who has already lifted one trophy and reached another WTA final in 2017.
Halep, who has been hampered early in the season by knee trouble, said she’s just happy to have the injury behind her.
“She’s playing very well, but I’m coming back,” Halep said. “I have no pressure. No expectations. And when I don’t have expectation, I play better.”
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, who saved three match points en route to her second-round win over Serbian veteran Jelena Jankovic, took on Czech Lucie Safarova while sixth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland faced China’s Peng Shuai – a player who has twice knocked Radwanska out of the US Open.
It’ll be another US Open rematch when ninth-seeded American Madison Keys takes on Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
The two played a third-round thriller at Flushing Meadows last year, with Keys triumphing in a third-set tiebreaker after rallying from 5-1 down in the third.