Thursday, 15 March 2012 10:02
INDIAN WELLS: Rafael Nadal raced into the Indian Wells quarter-finals with a dominating win, while Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer needed three sets each to oust unseeded opponents on Wednesday.
Tennis' big three moved on in the California desert as the world No. 2 Nadal had the easiest time, storming into the quarters by beating 21st seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-2 in just 76 minutes.
World number three Federer scrambled for the second-straight day to eliminate an up-and-comer he was facing for the first time, coming from behind to beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Defending champ and world No. 1 Djokovic lost a second set tie-breaker en route to a 6-0, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 win over Pablo Andujar.
"In the end I was lucky to get through some points," said Djokovic, who has won the last three Grand Slams. "I am happy to go through to the next round."
The 24-year-old Serb came into Wednesday's fourth round match with a 12-1 record on the year, having already captured the fifth Grand Slam title of his career at the Australian Open.
In the quarter-finals, Djokovic will face Nicolas Almagro, who surprised seventh seeded Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-0.
Djokovic looked to be charging his way into the quarters after dominating the first set 6-0 in just 28 minutes.
But he quickly found himself in the middle of a dogfight in the second as unseeded Andujar started to get his serve cracking, winning the set in a tie-breaker to level at one each.
"I think I played one of my better sets in the last couple months in the first set," Djokovic said. "He surprised me with his aggressive approach. He was taking the ball early.
"In the second set I started playing a little bit more defensive and that allowed him to come back into the match.
"In the third set I regrouped. I managed to stay calm mentally and find my rhythm again."
Djokovic fired four aces and saved eight of eight break-point chances in the two hour, 16 minute match.
He said he is playing some of his best tennis of the season at Indian Wells.
"The way I played in that first set and the third set today is as well as I was playing at this stage last year," said Djokovic, who started 2011 with 41 consecutive match victories.
Nadal next plays unseeded David Nalbandian of Argentina, who came from behind to stun sixth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal, who finished with four aces, challenged a call and won to get to match point. The line judge called a shot on the baseline which Nadal disputed. He won the point thanks to a video review that showed the ball was out.
That got Nadal to match point and he clinched the victory when Dolgopolov hit a forehand long.
"Being in the quarters is fantastic," Nadal said.
"He is very difficult to play against. He can produce winners from every part of the court. He's a funny player, good for tennis.
"I started very strong and he had a few mistakes, more than the usual on the backhand, which helped me out a bit."
Federer is chasing his fourth Indian Wells title after winning three straight times from 2004-2006.
The 30-year-old Swiss, who already has two titles in 2012, was making a quick turnaround after rallying to win the night match Tuesday against Canadian Milos Raonic in three sets.
Federer also had to scramble to get back into it Wednesday after dropping the first set. He then finished the second set the way he started it, by breaking the Brazilian's serve en route to a 6-3 win.
"It is always great to come through in a three setter," Federer said. "I struggled early on to make the transition from night to day. I am happy and relieved to be through and still alive in the tournament."
Bellucci, who is Brazil's No. 1, eased into the fourth round with a victories over sick opponents. He beat Jurgen Melzer in straight sets before the Austrian pulled out of doubles with a virus and then followed it up with a walkover over Nikolay Davydenko, who withdrew with an illness.
In other men's matches Wednesday, American John Isner defeated Australia's Matthew Ebden 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Almagro of Spain stopped seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-0.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012