INDIAN WELLS

Nadal, Djokovic and Williams advance at Indian Wells

The top two seeds reached the next round on Tuesday while Nadal beat countryman Fernando Verdasco to set up a meet with Alexandr Zverev.

Nadal, Djokovic and Williams advance at Indian Wells
PAUL BUCK EFE

World number one Novak Djokovic broke his opponent late in both sets to eke out a 7-5 7-5 third round victory over an upset-minded Philipp Kohlschreiber on Tuesday as the Serb continued his BNP Paribas Open title defence at Indian Wells.

One day after world number two Andy Murray was surprisingly knocked out of competition, Djokovic had no such letdown despite suffering a bit of a wobble towards the end of the match. Djokovic broke serve to lead 4-2 in the second set and squandered four match points in the ninth game before handing back the break to the German world number 30.

The next two games went with serve with Djokovic ensuring the contest would not go to a deciding set when he sealed victory on his fifth match point in breaking his opponent for the fourth time in the match to advance to the round of 16.

The Serb next plays Spaniard Feliciano López for a place in the quarter-finals.

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal gained a modicum of revenge over Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco with a 6-0 7-6(9) triumph. Having lost to Verdasco in the opening round of the Australian Open in January, Nadal dominated early before digging in late in the second set to put the match away, saving five set points in the tie-break to triumph after falling 6-3 behind.

"I feel lucky to win the tie-break but at the same time, I played well with not many mistakes as I went for the points," said Nadal, who is looking for his fourth title at Indian Wells. "I lost matches similar to this one in Australia, in Buenos Aires and in Rio de Janeiro, so it's important for me to win matches like this."

Nadal next faces 18-year-old German prospect Alexandr Zverev, who the Spaniard believes is "a possible future number one".

The power-hitting Zverev confirmed his potential by breezing past 16th-seeded Gilles Simon of France 6-2 6-2 in just 67 minutes.

"I thought I played really well today," said Zverev. "I was really ready for a long, long fight and a long three-set match... I'm really happy that I got through so quickly."

Zverev is bidding to become the youngest quarter-finalist at the event since 1989 and to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final in just his fifth tournament at this level.

Earlier, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori reached the round of 16 with a 7-6(6) 7-6(5) win over American Steve Johnson. Nishikori, chasing his second ATP World Tour title of the season after victory in Memphis last month, will next face big-serving American ninth seed John Isner, who fired 15 aces in his 6-4 7-6(4) win over France's Adrian Mannarino.

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took down American Sam Querrey 6-3 6-4.

Serena Williams set up a showdown with the reigning Indian Wells Champion Simona Halep after breezing past Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

Serena Williams returns to Kateryna Bondarenko.

Last year at Indian Wells, Halep won their semi-final without even striking a ball after Williams pulled out of the tournament at the last minute with a knee injury. Halep went on to win the title.

That withdrawal cut short Williams' first Indian Wells campaign since 2001, when spectators booed her during the final and jeered her sister, Venus, and father Richard Williams when the pair arrived to watch the match. Richard Williams alleges he heard racial taunts.

Williams said she is grateful that the boos have turned to cheers.

"Every time I step on the court people cheer for me. It is just a different feeling," Williams said following her win over Bondarenko.

Halep moved on to the quarter-finals when her opponent Barbora Strycova retired in the second set with a respiratory problem.

Williams has dominated Halep over the years, beating her six times in seven matches. Halep's best moment against her was a straight sets win, 6-0, 6-2, in 2014 in Singapore.

"I like her game. She's a fighter. She killed me at one point so I will have to be ready," Williams said of facing Halep on Wednesday.

Elsewhere on the women's side, like Halep, Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia advanced when an opponent stopped playing mid-match. Italian ninth seed Roberta Vinci was down 6-2, 2-0 when she called it quits because of an ankle injury.

Rising Russian star Daria Kasatkina continued her superb run this week by upsetting 12th seeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals. The 18-year-old is the lone teenager left in the women's field.