By Beth Harris / The Associated Press
INDIAN WELLS, California—Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal, 6-2, 6-3, at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday in a fourth-round match that saw the longtime rivals meeting much earlier in a tournament than usual.
Federer broke Nadal four times in advancing to the quarterfinals in 68 minutes. Although Nadal owns a 23-13 lead in their series, Federer has won three in a row for the first time, including an epic comeback in the Australian Open final two months ago at age 35.
“It’s a nice feeling to win the last three,” he said. “But, most important, I won Australia. That was big for me.”
Federer broke Nadal to open the match in front of a packed Stadium 1 crowd. Federer faced just one break point on his serve in the match, but he recovered with a big serve and two winning backhands to go up 2-0 in the first set.
“The main thing he take the break in the first game, and I had break point in the next game and come back and he had a good serve,” Nadal said. “When Roger has the advantage, his serve is so good, he has a lot of confidence with his serve, he’s able to play much more relaxed.”
Nadal wasn’t too shabby either, serving three love games. But Federer’s shotmaking was superb, frequently kissing the lines off both sides.
The four-time Indian Wells winner was crafty, too. Leading 5-1, Federer moved in quickly on Nadal’s second serve, surprising the Spaniard, whose forehand sailed long. Federer’s drop shots were well-timed and even when a scrambling Nadal got to them in time, Federer answered with one of his 26 winners.
“When you serve well and stay on the offensive and you press, you can actually play some really good, aggressive tennis here,” Federer said.
The two superstars hadn’t played each other before the quarterfinals of an event since 2004 when they met in the third round at Miami. Wednesday’s match was just the fifth time they weren’t opposing each other in a final.
Another one of tennis’s Big Four went down, too.
Novak Djokovic’s 19-match winning streak at the desert tournament ended in a 6-4, 7-6 (3) loss to Nick Kyrgios. Djokovic joined Nadal and top-ranked Andy Murray, who was upset in the second round, on the sidelines.
Djokovic, Federer and Nadal were all in the same quarter of the draw, ensuring the tournament would lose some of its biggest names before the second weekend.
Stan Wawrinka, virtually the forgotten man despite being seeded third, pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka, who twice served for the match.
Kyrgios beat Djokovic for the second time in two weeks, having earned a straight-set victory over the world’s No. 2 player at Acapulco on March 2.
“That felt good to kind of prove it wasn’t a one-off thing,” Kyrgios said. “I competed for every point. It was hot out there. We played for two hours. It was just a good, honest win.”
Djokovic was bidding for a fourth consecutive title at Indian Wells, having won a total of five in his career. But he unraveled with 25 unforced errors, including a forehand service return on Kyrgios’s second match point.
“Conditions like today where the ball travels through the air very fast and it bounces very high, it’s a gamble,” Djokovic said. “On his first serves, to try to anticipate and read his serve, where he’s going to go 140 miles per hour down the T and also pretty good angle wide, it’s hard to position yourself well.”
Kyrgios advanced to the quarterfinals, where he will face Federer. The 15th-seeded Australian hit 14 aces, with his fastest serve clocking 141 mph, and won 86 percent of his first serve points.
Also joining Kyrgios in the quarterfinals were No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori, who defeated Donald Young, 6-2, 6-4; 17th-seeded Jack Sock, a 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5 winner over Malek Jaziri; No. 21 Pablo Carreno Busta, who beat qualifier Dusan Lajovic; and No. 27 Pablo Cuevas, who outlasted 11th-seeded David Goffin, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
On the women’s side, No. 3 Karolina Pliskova got by seventh-seeded Garbine Muguruza, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), and next faces No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat 19th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the semifinals.
Image credits: AP