Indian Wells, California, March 15, GNA/ dpa -
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal set up a much-anticipated showdown at Indian
Wells on Tuesday, with the all-star pair to square off in the fourth round of
the first Masters 1000 of the season.
Federer, who beat Nadal six weeks ago to win the Australian Open, punished American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4); Nadal was equally strict with Fernando Verdasco, dismissing his fellow Spaniard 6-3, 7-5 in 89 minutes.
"I want to win, and I want to be in the final round, and I want to fight for the tournament," Nadal said prior to the Federer clash. "Roger has the talent to do very difficult things that look easy, he's able to take the ball very early, he creates a lot of winners with that."
The match between the pair who have met in 22 finals will be their earliest since 2003 in the Miami third round.
"I'm very excited, that's why I came here, play against guys like Rafa. Now we have it," Federer said.
"Australia helps me a little bit, but I'm still in the comeback. And I try to see it really as another opportunity to build upon something for the rest of the season.
"I'm going to try to go out there and try to play free again. I think it's really important.
"I'm really happy that I got my energy back, Tomorrow if I move well, I will definitely have a chance."
Novak Djokovic, champion of the last three editions, extended his tournament win streak to 19 matches with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 ouster of Juan Martin del Potro.
The Serb also beat the Argentine in Acapulco on March 1, it marked his 300th win at a Masters 1000.
Djokovic took control with a break for 3-1 in the final set and closed out a two-and-a-quarter-hour win with a volley winner to the corner.
He now plays Nick Kyrgios. The Australian defeated German Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 to book his California spot.
Japanese fourth seed Kei Nishikori advanced past Gilles Muller 6-2, 6-2 while Jack Sock eliminated 12th seed Grigor Dimitrov 3-6. 6-3, 7-6 (9-7). Donald Young upset French 14th seed Lucas Pouille 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
In women's play, Elena Vesnina stunned second seed Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3, spoiling the German's return to the top ranking next Monday. The loss was a continuation of a poor 2017 for the 29-year-old who takes back the WTA top spot from absent Serena Williams.
"I'm not looking back on the tournaments," said Kerber, winner of two grand slams in 2016. "It's a completely new year, new tournament, and every tournament starts from zero.
"I "need to get used to the pressure and everything. I'm going out there to play my matches, trying to win it. This is what counts for me. So I'm not comparing this year to the last years."
Karolina Pliskova reached the quarter-finals when Swiss 15th seed Timea Bascinszky had to quit with a left wrist injury trailing 5-1.
"I'm definitely happy to be there in the quarters, but of course not the way how I wanted to win the match today," Pliskova said. "I saw it during the first few games that she wasn't hitting many backhands. For her it was tough for her to play without the backhand, so there was no other way probably."
Pliskova, a 2016 semi-finalist, will play French Open winner Garbine Muguruza, who beat Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-0 and ended the Ukrainian's 15-match win streak.
Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2; double grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded eighth beat Caroline Garcia of France 6-1, 6-4.
US 12th seed Venus Williams put out qualifier Peng Shuai 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
"I have to focus, it's not there yet," William said of her trophy chances. "It's just, like, getting closer. Your mouth starts to water, but it doesn't mean you'll get fed. So I have to get it in and try to win."