Spanish star Rafael Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic remained on course on Wednesday for a mouth-watering Indian Wells semi-final, while Swiss Stan Wawrinka exited in a match he described as a no-brainer.
World number five Nadal survived a scare from Alexander Zverev, rallying to beat the German teenager 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 7-5 and reach the quarter-finals.
Two-time defending champion Djokovic cruised into the quarters by beating Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3 but French Open champion Stan Wawrinka bit the dust in the joint ATP and WTA Tour tournament.
Nadal, who saved a match point in the third set, said he had to adjust quickly to 18-year-old Zverev’s style, especially the German’s second serve.
“With his second serve at 120 mph, with a lot of spin and at 124, 123, 120 mph, it was impossible,” Nadal said.
“If he puts the first serve in at over 130 mph then you are in big trouble. So I think that I’m here, and still alive.”
Indeed, Zverev had the 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal on the ropes for much of Wednesday’s two and a half hour contest. Following the match the Spaniard predicted great things for the teen.
“He is amazingly talented. He is probably going to be the number one in the world,” said Nadal after their first career meeting.
The contest on the main stadium court in front of a crowd of about 10,000 turned on match point in the ninth game with Zverev serving and leading 5-3 in games.
Up 40-30, the German then made three straight unforced errors to hand the game to Nadal.
The nine-time French Open winner Nadal then used his experience to seize control and win the final three games and close out the match.
“I am happy about the way I fought,” Nadal said. “I was able to find some solutions in tough moments.”
Nadal moves on to face Kei Nishikori of Japan, who rallied to beat American John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5).
Djokovic will battle seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2. Djokovic wasted no time avenging the only blemish on his 2016 record.
Last month in Dubai, Djokovic retired against Lopez after losing the first set because of an eye infection.
Djokovic, who is going for a record fifth Indian Wells title, is now 19-1 this season.
“I’m glad to have a match like this, without many complications,” Djokovic said. “I managed to step in and return very well.”
Wawrinka was sent crashing out of the event in the fourth round by David Goffin.
“It was a match without a brain,” said Wawrinka, who lost 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/5) to 15th seed Goffin.
Wawrinka had his serve broken seven times after dropping his serve just once in his previous two matches at Indian Wells.
“I had a tough time staying focused and being patient. I still tried to fight,” Wawrinka said. “He deserved to win.”
There were 13 total service breaks in the two hour, 25 minute marathon match.
“Two times I came back. I had the chance in the third set to break him and finish it at 5-5 and I didn’t,” said Wawrinka.
Goffin advances to the quarter-finals, where he will face Marin Cilic, who defeated France’s Richard Gasquet 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in another three-set thriller.
Goffin’s victory snaps a 14-match losing streak for the Belgian against top-10 opponents. His last win over a top-10 player was against Milos Raonic in 2014 at Basel.
Hard-serving Canadian Raonic toppled sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).
Raonic’s victory over Nadal in the quarters at Indian Wells last year was voted one of the top matches of 2015.
Raonic said he is playing at a much higher level this year than when he upset Nadal 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 7-5.
“I have significantly improved over time,” said the world number 12. “I’m pretty efficient at the net now. I cover the angles I’m supposed to cover. I make the volleys I’m supposed to make.”
Raonic will face France’s Gael Monfils, who defeated clay court specialist Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-4.