Tennis: Past champions Nadal and Federer advance at Indian Wells, Isner also through to last 32

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA (AFP) – Tennis’ world No. 2 Rafael Nadal raced into the third round of the ATP Indian Wells Masters, as Roger Federer made a less speedy but still successful start to his quest for a sixth title on Sunday (March 10).

Nadal, a three-time Indian Wells winner, needed just 72 minutes to get past overmatched Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-1.

Federer, who is seeking to break out of a tie with top seed Novak Djokovic for most titles in the California desert, looked set for a similarly easy time of it, but had to turn back a second-set challenge from German Peter Gojowczyk in a 6-1, 7-5 win.

Fourth-seeded Federer said he was relieved not to go to a second-set tiebreaker after falling behind 3-1 to the free-swinging German, who is ranked 85th in the world.

The Swiss regained the break and, after saving four break points to make it 4-4, cruised home.

“I struggled a little bit with my serving in that second set and that gave him chances. Because he was serving better, he started to swing more freely and then it was tough,” he said.

“I’m really happy I found a way in that second set.”

Federer next faces compatriot Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion currently unseeded as he continues his return from injury.

Wawrinka won a taut thriller against 29th-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, finally sealing it on his fifth match point after three hours and 24 minutes when Fucsovics lofted a lob long.

‘Positive step’

Nadal, playing his third tournament of a year that started with a crushing loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open final and included an early exit in Acapulco, converted five of his six break chances against Donaldson and never faced a break point himself.

He next faces Diego Schwartzman, who beat Spain’s Roberto Carballes, 6-3, 6-1. Nadal is 6-0 against the Argentinian.

“Today was a very positive step for me, and the next one is going to be against a player that we know each other very well – we practised a lot of times, and we played some tough matches,” Nadal said.

“It’s going to be a tough one against Diego,” he added, calling Schwartzman “one of the best talents of the sport today”.

In other early matches, eighth-seeded American John Isner routed Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, 6-0, 6-2 in the most lopsided win of his career.

He will play Guido Pella, who won his first title at Sao Paulo last week. The Argentinian ended the hopes of another Aussie qualifier, Alex Bolt 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3.

Tenth-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic downed Serbian Dusan Lajovic, 6-3, 6-4 to book a meeting with 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 24th seed who beat American Steve Johnson, 6-3, 6-4.

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