Federer books Nadal fourth-round Indian Wells clash


INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 14: Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot to Steve Johnson ...
INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 14: Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot to Steve Johnson during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 14, 2017 in Indian Wells, California. PHOTO/Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

Swiss great Roger Federer beat Steve Johnson 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) to book a fourth-round meeting with Rafael Nadal at the ATP Indian Wells Masters on Tuesday.

The round of 16 clash between Federer and Nadal will come six weeks after Federer beat the Spaniard in the Australian Open final to claim his 18th Grand Slam crown.

Earlier, Nadal did his part to set up a fourth-round clash with Federer by powering past Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5.

Nadal’s victory marked the second straight year he has vanquished his fellow Spaniard in the third round at Indian Wells.

Federer and Nadal have faced each other 35 times in a celebrated rivalry, but they haven’t met before the quarter-finals of a tournament since their first meeting in the round of 32 at Miami in 2004.

Their star-studded quarter of the draw also features five-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic, the second seed who faced a tough third-round clash with Argentine Juan Martin del Potro under the Stadium Court lights.

While Djokovic has won 12 of their 16 career meetings, del Potro has produced some big wins in the series, including a first-round triumph en route to a silver medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year.

Djokovic avenged that defeat with a three-round victory in Acapulco this month.

“I have to give it my all,” said Djokovic of the task ahead. “That’s what it takes to beat this guy. Even though he is not ranked as high and he hasn’t played that many tournaments (he was) definitely one of the best players in the world last year, especially in the second part of the year, winning Davis Cup, silver medal for his country – beating myself – and Wawrinka at Wimbledon.

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.

Nishikori booked a date with unseeded American Donald Young, who ousted 14th-seeded Lucas Pouille of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

Despite two “horrible” games, Nadal was pleased with his overall effort against Verdasco, a left-hander like himself who has pushed him in the past.

“I played a good match — very aggressive with my serve, serving well, hitting good forehands, good backhands.

“I think I played much better today than the first day. I played two horrible games, terrible. That’s it. For the rest of the match I think I played very well.”

The blip came after Nadal had broken for a 2-1 lead in the second set. He was promptly broken to love himself, Then Verdasco held with a love game.

But Nadal gained the break he needed for a 6-5 lead in a game Verdasco book-ended with double faults, and served it out without a hitch.

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