INDIAN WELLS (United States) • Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer booked a mouth-watering fourth-round clash at the ATP Indian Wells Masters on Tuesday, when five-time champion Novak Djokovic also advanced from the "Group of Death".
With the three tennis superstars drawn in the same quarter, only one - at most - can make it to the semi-finals.
The weeding out will start in earnest this morning (Singapore time), when Federer meets Nadal in the round of 16 in a reprise of the Australian Open final in January that saw the Swiss star claim an 18th Grand Slam crown.
"I think it's a great thing for tennis, and it's exciting for Rafa and me," said Federer, a four-time Indian Wells winner. "It's a tough draw, but rankings are not the priority for both of us.
"Anything else but a finals, it almost doesn't matter which round it would be," he added of what will be the 36th meeting between the two - their first before the quarter-finals since their rivalry began in 2004.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 36th time in Indian Wells. The pair have 32 Grand Slam titles between them.
Three-time Indian Wells champion Nadal was the first through, defeating fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5.
Despite two "horrible" games, Nadal was pleased with his overall effort against Verdasco, a left-hander who has pushed him in the past.
"I played a good match - very aggressive with my serve, serving well, hitting good forehands, good backhands," said Nadal.
Federer edged out American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) in a match in which neither player was able to break.
The Swiss, however, was pleased enough at not facing a break point himself.
"I was very happy how I played because I thought he played a really good match," said Federer, who gave up just six points on his first serve in the encounter.
Djokovic made it past dangerous Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro. The world No. 2 won 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, racing away with the third set, winning the last five games with what he called "probably the best tennis I've played this year".
"Obviously against del Potro, who has a big serve, to be able to break him two times in a set was great and I'm just hoping I can carry this confidence level, especially on the return, to the next match," said Djokovic, who will next meet 21-year-old Nick Kyrgios, the Australian who stunned him in their first-ever meeting earlier this month in Acapulco.
Kyrgios defeated Germany's Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 in a battle of two of the ATP Tour's most exciting young talents.
With the loaded bottom quarter the focus of attention, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan quietly advanced to the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.
American Jack Sock, winner of ATP titles in Auckland and Delray Beach this year, saved four match points in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
Day 7: Men's rd of 16 StarHub Ch201, 11.30am