Fifth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer was ousted from the Indian Wells ATP tournament on Tuesday as Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro both moved into the fourth round.
Ferrer was upset 6-4 6-3 by Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, Nadal swept past fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-4 and big-serving Del Potro of Argentina survived a shaky second set to beat Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6.
A winner of three ATP titles this year, Ferrer had lost only once in 20 matches this season before struggling badly on his second serve as he was outplayed by the 51st-ranked Istomin.
"I didn't play a good match even though I don't want to take credit from him," the Spaniard tweeted in his native language. "He was the better player today and played very well, a fair winner."
Claycourt specialist Ferrer, a former world number four, had won titles in Auckland, Buenos Aires and Acapulco this year.
Istomin, who broke the out-of-sorts Spaniard once in the opening set and three times in the second, will next meet ninth seed Del Potro, who saved six set points before booking his place in the fourth round.
Second seed Nadal, Indian Wells champion in 2007 and 2009, dominated Granollers with his superb baseline game but lost a bit of momentum in the second set before sealing victory in one hours 25 minutes with an ace on his fifth match point.
"I played great in the first set on my forehand and made few mistakes," Nadal said. "In the second set I made more mistakes. I need to play like I did in the first set if I want to have a chance (to win the title)."
Del Potro, who won his first grand slam title at the 2009 U.S. Open, breezed through his opening set in 39 minutes before struggling against his opponent's fluent ground strokes.
The six-foot six-inch (1.98m) Argentine saved four set points on his own serve in a marathon 10th game, and two more in the tiebreak, before sealing victory when a Verdasco backhand flew long.
Del Potro clenched his fists in delight before making a sign of the cross on his chest and looking skywards in relief as the stadium court crowd erupted in applause.
"I am still very nervous from that moment when Fernando played much better than me in the second set," the 23-year-old said in a courtside interview.
"Verdasco is a really difficult opponent, especially in the early rounds of the big tournaments. He's very, very tough and very dangerous. Sometimes you are lucky to win these kinds of matches."
Sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France battled back to beat Czech Radek Stepanek 6-7 6-3 6-2 while Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci was gifted a walkover when Nikolay Davydenko withdrew from their match due to illness.
It was not certain whether Russian Davydenko had succumbed to the viral infection which has already forced eight players to pull out of Indian Wells, tournament officials said.
Bellucci will next play either three-times champion Roger Federer or Canadian Milos Raonic who were scheduled to play in Tuesday's evening session.