Federer, Nadal win to set up early showdown at Indian Wells
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot against Steve Johnson at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — 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 18th Grand Slam title. Their next meeting will be just the second time ever Federer and Nadal have met before the quarterfinals.
Federer fired 12 aces — his fastest serve registering 131 mph — and never faced a break point against Johnson, who reached 136 on the radar gun and fought off all four break points against him.
Federer hit 32 winners, including a forehand volley that earned him a mini-break in the first set tiebreaker. He won five of the next six points and closed out the set on Johnson's desperate backhand lob that landed wide.
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.
Nadal closed out his 1 1/2-hour, third-round match in 95-degree (35 C) heat with a forehand winner.
Nadal won 80 percent of his first-serve points and three of five break points. Verdasco, who won eight straight points for a 3-2 lead in the second set, had seven double faults.
Venus Williams advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001 with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Shuai Peng, the last remaining qualifier in the draw. She had 40 winners, 40 unforced errors and won the final four games of the match after trailing 3-2.
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; 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.