Djokovic advances at Indian Wells ATP Tennis

INDIAN WELLS, California: Novak Djokovic launched his defense of the Indian Wells Masters series title with a straight-sets victory Sunday, as world number one Rafael Nadal prepared to open his campaign.

Serbia''s Djokovic, seeded third behind Nadal and Swiss world number two Roger Federer in the 5.4 million-dollar event, overcame 54th-ranked Argentinian Martin Vasallo Arguello 7-5, 6-4 to reach the third round.

Djokovic, who claimed his first title of 2009 at Dubai two weeks ago, went up an early break in each set only to surrender his serve before breaking Vasallo Arguello again.

He closed out the match on a windy stadium court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on his second match point, when the Argentinian sent a service return long.

Spain''s Nadal, the 2007 champion here who has further boosted his hardcourt credentials with his Australian Open triumph this year, was to play German qualifier Michael Berrer in a second-round match.

Women''s top seed and defending champion Dinara Safina of Russia also defeated China''s Peng Shuai 7-5, 6-4 after a tough contest in the third round.