Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal powered to third-round wins at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Tuesday to set up a mouth-watering rematch of their recent Australian Open final.
Fifth seed Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-5, while ninth seed Federer served impeccably to get past American Stevie Johnson 7-6(3) 7-6(4) and book the 36th showdown of their famous rivalry.
The last time they met, Switzerland’s Federer claimed a record 18th grand slam title in a rousing 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 triumph over Nadal in Melbourne in January.
Federer, 35, lost only five points on his first serve in his double tie-breaker win over Johnson in a match completed without a service break.
Fourteen-times grand slam winner Nadal, 30, was comfortable as usual in the California desert, dismissing compatriot Verdasco to keep his Round of 16 date with the Swiss maestro.
It was the 50th win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for Nadal, who has lifted the trophy three times, in 2007 (over Novak Djokovic), 2009 (Andy Murray) and 2013 (Juan Martin del Potro).
“History says that this tournament works well for me,” Nadal, who holds a 23-12 winning record over Federer, told reporters.
Federer has also enjoyed his time at Indian Wells, winning four times with the last triumph coming in 2012.
Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic also had reason to celebrate as the second seed ran off the last five games to overcome big-hitting Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 4-6 6-1 in a bottom half of the draw stacked full of top players.—AFP