WORLD number one Novak Djokovic raced over to shake hands with tennis legend Pete Sampras after a second-round win over Bjorn Fratangelo at Indian Wells.
American Sampras, a 14-time Grand Slam winner, was in the stands as the Serb beat Fratangelo 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
“It’s a thrill to see someone I looked up to when I was a kid,” said 31-year-old Djokovic.
“I was pleasantly surprised but felt my nerves kick in. I don’t get to see him very often and wanted to impress him.”
Djokovic was playing his first match since winning the Australian Open in January and conceded an early break to his 25-year-old American opponent, ranked 128th.
He broke back when Fratangelo was serving for the set and, despite being 5-4 down in the tie-break, won the next three points before going on to complete a straight-set victory.
“I didn’t play my best. Credit to Bjorn for coming out firing from every corner,” said Djokovic, a 15-time major winner.
“I was lucky to get the first set. After that, things went better for me.”
Djokovic will play Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is ranked 39th, in the next round after the German beat Nick Kyrgios 6-4 6-4.
Kyrgios went into the tournament on the back of winning the Mexico Open.
“I didn’t really have a problem getting up. I just didn’t play well today,” said the Australian world number 33.
“He’s an incredible competitor. He knows how to win tennis matches.”
Meanwhile, in a match between two promising youngsters, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, beat 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4 6-2.
German Alexander Zverev also advanced after a 6-3 2-0 win over Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, who was forced to retire with a right ankle injury in the second set. — BBC Sport