HEAD­ING FOR IN­DIAN WELLS BAT­TLE

Nadal a step away from meet­ing with Fed­erer

New Straits Times - - Sport - IN­DIAN WELLS

ROGER Fed­erer and Rafael Nadal are on course for an­other show­down af­ter win­ning their open­ing matches at the ATP In­dian Wells Masters in the Cal­i­for­nia desert on Sun­day.

Less than two months af­ter Fed­erer claimed an 18th ma­jor ti­tle in a clas­sic Aus­tralian Open fi­nal, the two great ri­vals could meet again, this time in the fourth round at In­dian Wells.

Both won in style on Sun­day, with Span­ish fifth seed Nadal pounc­ing on Guido Pella’s serve to break the Ar­gen­tine five times en route to a 6-3, 6-2 vic­tory in siz­zling af­ter­noon heat.

Fed­erer en­joyed the rel­a­tive cool of an evening match but was back in the locker room be­fore work­ing up a ma­jor sweat, eas­ing to a 6-2, 6-1 win over French­man Stephane Robert in front of an ap­pre­cia­tive ca­pac­ity crowd of around 16,000 spec­ta­tors.

“The be­gin­ning was dif­fi­cult, just be­cause I’ve never played him be­fore so I’m not sure about his pat­terns,” ninth seed Fed­erer said in a court­side in­ter­view.

“I was very happy I was able to loosen up and play good ten­nis. I started to serve really well, move around the court great.”

While it was Fed­erer’s first match against Robert, he is far more familiar with Nadal. They have met 35 times, with Nadal hold­ing a 23-12 edge.

Need­ing to win their re­spec­tive third-round matches for a 36th meet­ing to hap­pen, Nadal next faces com­pa­triot Fer­nando Ver­dasco, while Fed­erer plays Amer­i­can Steve John­son.

“For sure I saw the draw,” a re­laxed Nadal said, adding that he was not really fo­cused on Fed­erer. “I go day-by-day. That’s my way, to fo­cus on my next match. I played I think a solid match (to­day).”

The path to the fi­nal on that side of the draw is lit­tered with tricky ob­sta­cles, how­ever, as sec­ond seed No­vak Djokovic and in­form Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios lie in wait as po­ten­tial fu­ture op­po­nents.

Djokovic, how­ever, must next ne­go­ti­ate a dan­ger­ous thir­dround op­po­nent in Ar­gen­tine Juan Martin del Potro af­ter the three-times de­fend­ing cham­pion ad­vanced with an un­con­vinc­ing 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) vic­tory over Bri­ton Kyle Ed­mund.

“First match, al­ready a big test,” the Serb said at a tour­na­ment where all the seeded play­ers had first-round byes. “Through­out most of that sec­ond set, he was a bet­ter player. I got lucky to pull through in straight sets.

Marin Cilic was the only topranked player to lose on Sun­day, the Croa­t­ian sixth seed beaten 46, 7-5, 6-4 by Amer­i­can teenager Tay­lor Fritz.

The tour­na­ment lost its top seed on Satur­day when Andy Mur­ray was up­set 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) by Cana­dian Vasek Pospisil, who rushed the net when­ever the op­por­tu­nity arose and also feasted on the Scot’s sec­ond serve.

Mur­ray praised his con­queror, while at the same time lamented an off night with his sec­ond serve.

“It wasn’t so much the servevol­ley that was the prob­lem. It was my own serve and not get­ting enough op­por­tu­ni­ties when he was serv­ing,” Mur­ray said.

EPA PIC

Rafael Nadal serves against Guido Pella at the ATP In­dian Wells Masters on Sun­day.

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