Friday March 15, 2013
Federer and Nadal set up quarter-final clash after thrilling wins at Indian Wells
INDIAN WELLS (California): Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both battled through three-set thrillers at the Indian Well Open on Wednesday to set up a mouthwatering quarter-final clash here in California.
Defending champion Federer defeated fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, labouring two hours and 20 minutes to subdue his old friend.
Nadal, playing his fourth tournament since returning from a seven-month injury absence, outlasted the in-form Latvian Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Federer had a golden opportunity to make his day much shorter, but serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set he was broken to love.
Unable to convert two break points in the following game he surrendered the set on a tiebreaker when he double-faulted on set point.
Wawrinka then gained the upper hand with a break in the third set, but Federer, winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, broke back and earned the decisive break in the final game as Wawrinka smacked a volley into the net.
“I think I was a little little lucky to come through it in the end,” said Federer, who continued to say a sore back would not hinder his pursuit of a first title of 2013.
“Overall I’m very pleased that I was able to play today and play at a high level, which was important obviously at this stage of the tournament,” Federer said.
“Obviously playing Rafa, it’s a classic,” Federer said. “We have played so many times. We know each other really well on and off the court. We know what to expect, both of us.”
Nadal is playing his first hard court tournament since left-knee tendinitis forced him out of the Miami Masters last March.
The same injury later sidelined him for seven months - from a second-round defeat at Wimbledon until a comeback swing of three clay-court tournaments in Latin America in February that yielded two titles and a runner-up finish.
Nadal had admitted he did not know how his knee would hold up on hard courts, and in qualifier Gulbis he came up against a red-hot player who had won the Delray Beach title as a qualifier the week before Indian Wells and toppled two seeds en route to his meeting with the Spaniard.
“Always against Ernests, it’s a very difficult match,” Nadal said. “He’s a very, very aggressive player with a big serve.”
Nadal saved the only break point he faced in the third set, and converted his only opportunity to break in the 11th game.
When he finally blasted a forehand winner on his third match point, Nadal gave a little leap of joy.
“I had to suffer a lot to win this match,” he said.
A packed schedule on stadium court saw Nadal’s match, the last of the day session, finish at 9:47pm.
Earlier world No. 3 Andy Murray reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq.
Murray twice went down a break in the opening set, but he managed to quell his opponent to book a date with seventh-seeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, who beat German veteran Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-2.
Sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych defeated France’s Richard Gasquet 6-1, 7-5 to advance to a quarter-final meeting with South African Kevin Anderson, a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 winner over France’s Gilles Simon.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga kept the French flag flying with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic stayed up late to book a last eight berth after polishing off American Sam Querrey in straight sets around 2:00 am yesterday.
The Serbian star beat American Querrey 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) in a match that didn’t get on court until after midnight thanks to some lengthy matches in the Wednesday day session.
Djokovic, whose two titles this year include a fourth Australian Open crown, stretched his match winning streak to 21 - dating back to a loss to Querrey at the Paris Masters on Oct 31 of last year.
He is 16-0 in 2013, a run that included a fourth Australian Open title and a title in Dubai.
“First of all thank you all for staying,” he told the crowd of a few hundred who hung on to the bitter end. “It’s been a very long day.”
After starting the match “incredibly well” Djokovic said, he had to work to keep his poise when he gave back the break in the second set.
“I was trying to compose myself,” he said. “It was very frustrating waiting the whole day ... I was really frustrated, but I was trying to hold my emotions.” — AFP