Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer stayed on track for a mouth-watering quarter-final showdown at the BNP Paribas Open after they both advanced to the last 16 on Monday.
Spaniard Nadal, twice champion at Indian Wells, was gifted his spot when Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer withdrew with a back injury before the start of their third-round match.
Federer, a four-times winner of the ATP Masters 1000 event, had minor back problems of his own but progressed with a commanding 6-3 6-1 victory over Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in a contest lasting just 61 minutes.
Federer and Nadal last met a year ago, also at Indian Wells, when the Swiss won a semi-final battle 6-3 6-4.
Federer tweaked his back during the latter stages of his match against Dodig, but with a rest day on Tuesday he was not worried that it could affect his last 16 match on Wednesday.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened in my career, so, I know how to deal with it,” said the world number two.
Federer will next meet compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt 6-4 7-5 in an evening match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
World number five Nadal, who is competing in his first tournament on a hardcourt surface in almost a year, was saddened when he learned
that Mayer had withdrawn. He plays Latvian Ernests Gulbis next.
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka struggled to find her rhythm against Kirsten Flipkens in the third round but finished strong to beat the Belgian 3-6 6-3 6-0.
The Belarusian is bidding to become the first woman to successfully defend the WTA title at Indian Wells since Martina Navratilova in 1991. Azarenka will next face Poland's Urszula Radwanska, who earlier overcame Jamie Hampton 6-0 7-6.