Sloppy Djokovic advances at Indian Wells
Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns a forehand volley to Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 11, 2014 in Indian Wells, California - by Jeff Gross
Djokovic, who lifted the trophy in the California desert in 2008 and 2011, was playing the 91st-ranked Colombian for the first time.
He appeared to be cruising toward a win until a sloppy spell late in the second set saw Gonzalez break for a 5-3 lead and win the next game to bring the match level.
Djokovic regained control with a demoralizing break in the second game of the third set, in which Gonzalez had nine game points before the Serbian star converted his first break chance.
Djokovic, 26, is seeking to jump-start a 2014 campaign that is off to a slow start.
His bid for a fourth straight Australian Open title ended in a quarter-final loss to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka, and he fell to Roger Federer in the semi-finals at Dubai in his only other tournament this year.
He faces a potentially tough fourth-round match against Croatian Marin Cilic, who beat 16th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-3.
Cilic collected his 10th and 11th ATP titles at Zagreb and Delray Beach last month.