Rafael Nadal has not won the BNP Paribas Open since 2013, but the second seed looks sharp in Indian Wells this year, beating 25th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday to reach the fourth round.
Nadal hits strong play in 2019, moving to 9-2 on the season, with his only losses coming against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final and Aussie Nick Kyrgios in a hard-fought third-set tie-break at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.
“I did a lot of things well. I started the match very well, my serve worked very well, especially in the first set.
“But during the second, I was doing things well anyway, so just happy having a match that I suffered in the past against Diego. We know each other well, so it’s a positive victory for me,’’ Nadal said.
Three-time Indian Wells titlist Nadal owns the record for most ATP Masters 1000 trophies with 33.
But Djokovic is hot on his tail with 32, so Nadal could give himself breathing room by triumphing again in the desert.
The Spaniard relentlessly pressured Schwartzman throughout their one-hour, 15-minute encounter, preventing the Argentine from stepping into the court by attacking early in nearly every rally.
“There arrived a moment that I think I was playing too aggressive. So then I stopped a little bit the game, changing the rhythm of the point more times, and I think that worked well for me.
“I am happy by the way that I played. I did a lot of things well,’’ Nadal was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour website.
Nadal extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Schwartzman to 7-0, with five of his victories coming in straight sets.
The diminutive Argentine had battled Nadal well in the past, though, taking a set from the Spaniard at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2018.
“In Roland Garros he had been up a set and a break. In Australia, it was a very long four-set match.
“Today, I played very well and took my chances. I was solid with my serve, and I did a lot of things well, I think. I don’t believe its something about Diego. Its something about the way that I played today more than anything,’’ Nadal said.
The second seed will next play 2017 Rolex Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic, who upset in-form 14th seed Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 in only 78 minutes.
World No. 113 has won five matches without losing a set since arriving in Indian Wells since he had to qualify to reach the main draw.
Krajinovic won 14 tour-level matches in 2018, but after defeating Medvedev, he already has nine victories this season. Krajinovic took advantage of Medvedev’s second serve, winning 57 per cent of those points.
The 27-year-old saved the two break points he faced.
“I think I played really well from the beginning of the tournament, I was a little bit scared last night because I was a little bit sick.
“I didn’t know what to expect today, but everything went really well. I think I played a very good game today and beat a rival who is an unbelievable player and who started the season really well so I’m happy for that and excited for the next one,’’ Krajinovic said.