Indian Wells: Roger Federer Books Fourth-round Clash With Rafael Nadal
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Indian Wells: Roger Federer edged Steve Johnson 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in a hard-serving duel at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday, setting up a fourth-round match against Rafael Nadal.
Nadal advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win against 26th-seeded Fernando Verdasco for his 50th career victory at the desert tournament, where he's won three titles but none since 2013.
Five-time Indian Wells winner Novak Djokovic faced 2013 finalist Juan Martin del Potro at night.
Federer is a four-time champion at Indian Wells who won his last title in 2012. He defeated Nadal in the Australian Open final in January for his record 18th Grand Slam title. Their meeting on Wednesday will be the earliest they have played since their first match in 2004 at Miami, where Nadal won.
"Because it's early in the tournament, I think we both don't quite yet know to 100 percent how everything feels," Federer said. "There is a bit of the unknown, which is exciting maybe for the fans to see how we're going to try to figure that part out."
Johnson held at 6-all to force the second tiebreaker and fell behind 4-2. He broke Federer for a 4-all tie before Federer won on his second match point when Johnson netted a backhand.
"In the second set, I think he was serving almost 90 percent at one point," Federer said. "That's why I changed my position on the return. I was trying to mix it up a bit."
Nadal closed out his 1 1/2-hour, third-round match in 95-degree (35 C) heat with a forehand winner.
Nadal called it unlucky that he and Federer were to play before the quarterfinals. The Spaniard leads the rivalry 23-12, including a 9-8 edge on hardcourts.
"It doesn't matter if everybody is playing well because from our part of the draw, only one of us is going to be in that semifinals," Nadal said. "So that's tough, but that's not happening every week. Only thing we can do to avoid that is be in higher position of the ranking."
French Open champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain planned to watch the latest chapter in the Federer-Nadal rivalry.
"I think everybody is going to watch that match," she said. "Everybody likes Rafa. Everybody likes Roger. It's history over there."
"It was so frustrating," Williams said. "But I feel like I got my focus more in that second set and towards the end of the third because I'm just a competitor. If things get closer, then I think my better tennis is going to come."
Williams ended her 15-year boycott of the event last year, when she lost in the second round.
In other women's matches, No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova advanced when 15th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky retired trailing 5-1 in the first set; Muguruza defeated No. 10 Elina Svitolina 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-0; No. 19 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova outlasted No. 5 Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; and No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova beat 21st-seeded Caroline Garcia.
On the men's side, No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori routed 25th-seeded Gilles Muller 6-2, 6-2; American Donald Young defeated 14th-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-4, 1-6, 6-3; No. 15 Nick Kyrgios beat No. 18 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4; and Malek Jaziri got by American wild card Taylor Fritz 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.