Nadal Exacts Sweet Revenge

Nadal emerges triumphant in the battle of the Spanish lefties

Rafael Nadal has avenged his shock defeat from this year’s Australian Open, turning the tables on compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6(9) to reach the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

The fourth seed raced through the opening set without conceding a game before his fellow left-handed Spaniard conjured his first break of serve to get on the board. It marked the first of four consecutive breaks at the start of the second set before play continued on serve to the tie-break.

Verdasco looked to be taking the match into a deciding set when he held three set points at 6/3 in the tie-break. Nadal, though, reeled off four straight points to bring up a match point. Verdasco rallied to bring up a further two set points before Nadal closed it out on his second match point.

“I lost matches similar to this one in Australia, in Bueno Aires, in Rio de Janeiro, so it's important winning sets like this for me,” Nadal said. “I feel lucky to win the tie-break, and at the same time I think at the end of the tie-break I played well with not many mistakes and going for the points.

“So it is an important victory for me. Two match wins here, tough ones. That's something that stays in my mind and helps.”

The victory secured a fourth-round meeting with German #NextGen star Alexander Zverev, an earlier winner of No. 16 seed Gilles Simon. It will be their first clash.

“He’s a clear possible future No. 1,” Nadal said. “He’s an amazing player. He has all the shots and very good physical performance. He’s tall, has a good serve – first and second – great shots from the baseline, forehand and backhand.

“He has everything to become a big star and he’s playing well. He already won matches against [Grigor] Dimitrov, against [Gilles] Simon today.

“I know it’s going to be a very tough match. I’m happy the way I played today in the first set, so if I can keep going the same way tomorrow, I hope to have my chances.”

The Spaniard had fallen in his most recent clash with Verdasco – a five-set boilover in the opening round at Melbourne Park in January. His win in Indian Wells takes his FedEx Head2Head record against his countryman to 14-3.

Austrian 11th seed Dominic Thiem also advanced. The 22 year old, who leads the ATP World Tour with 21 match wins already this season, took down American No. 21 seed Jack Sock 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-1.

Thiem won 72 per cent of first-serve points and saved four of seven break points in the two-hour, 14-minute match.

The win sets up a fourth-round meeting with seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman downed No. 31 seed Sam Querrey 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 14 minutes to extend his FedEx ATP Head2Head record to 4-1 against the American. Tsonga struck six aces, claiming 87 per cent of first-serve points. 

He never faced a break point throughout. Tsonga has won his only prior meeting with Thiem.

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