Big names all survive tests in California heat

Rafael Nadal, stretching for a backhand return to Fernando Verdasco, avenged his Australian Open loss to his fellow Spaniard, winning 6-0, 7-6 (11-9) at Indian Wells.
Rafael Nadal, stretching for a backhand return to Fernando Verdasco, avenged his Australian Open loss to his fellow Spaniard, winning 6-0, 7-6 (11-9) at Indian Wells. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

INDIAN WELLS • Rafael Nadal avenged a fresh loss to a fellow Spaniard by saving five set points to finish off a two-set victory over Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6 (11-9) on Tuesday, in the third round at tennis' Indian Wells Masters.

The nine-time French Open champion, who turns 30 in June, made amends for his first-round loss to Verdasco at the Australian Open in January.

He moved a step closer to a fourth trophy in the California desert, where he took the title in 2007, 2009 and 2013.

Nadal, who is seeded fourth, roared through the first set without dropping a game, but Verdasco came to life in the second, eventually forcing a tie-break.

Nadal fought off the set points, before clinching it when Verdasco hit a backhand long to end the one hour, 41 minute contest.

"It was a tough match, but I resisted," said Nadal, who broke Verdasco five times.

"I lost a few matches this year that I had a chance to win so I need to play more matches like this.

"In these kind of matches I have more to lose than him, so he's able to play very aggressive. He has amazing shots. When he arrives at a tie-break, you know you're in trouble."

DIFFICULT OPPONENT

In these kind of matches I have more to lose than him, so he's able to play very aggressive. He has amazing shots. When he arrives at a tie-break, you know you're in trouble.

RAFAEL NADAL, on compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who beat him in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

The swashbuckling Spaniard next faces German Alexander Zverev, who defeated Gilles Simon in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

Meanwhile, top seed Novak Djokovic, who is aiming for his third straight and a record fifth overall Indian Wells crown, defeated German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-5 in the night match.

The world No. 1 advanced to the fourth round, where he will face Feliciano Lopez.

In the women's draw, world No. 1 Serena Williams routed 70th-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals, where she will be up against defending champion Simona Halep.

Last year at Indian Wells, the Romanian won their semi-final without even striking a ball, after Williams pulled out of their match at the last minute with a knee injury. Halep went on to win the title.

"I like her game. She's a fighter. I will have to be ready," the American said of facing the world No. 5.

Halep, on the other hand, is confident of playing against the world No. 1.

"I know that it's gonna be tough to win, but still, I have my chance," she said.

"I feel that I have the game to play against her. We will see tomorrow. She's No. 1 in the world."

In earlier women's action, Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat Serbia's Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final showdown with world No. 9 Petra Kvitova.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Big names all survive tests in California heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe