Federer, Nadal advance at Indian Wells; Serena retires hurt

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Roger Federer returns to Peter Gojowczyk during their second-round match on Sunday. Agence France-Presse

Roger Federer began his campaign for a record sixth Indian Wells title by defeating German Peter Gojowczyk 6-1 7-5 in California on Sunday.

Fresh from earning his 100th ATP singles title a week ago in Dubai, the Swiss fourth seed repelled a tough second set challenge from the world No. 85 to book his third-round place.

World number two Rafa Nadal brushed aside American Jared Donaldson 6-1 6-1 and will next face Diego Schwartzman after the Argentine beat Roberto Carballes 6-3 6-1.

Earlier in the day, Japan’s Kei Nishikori narrowly avoided a second round defeat to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino before battling through 6-4 4-6 7-6(4).

Federer said he was happy to get into his stride early in the tournament.

Federer, who won the last of his Indian Wells titles two years ago but lost in the 2018 final, used his backhand slice to keep Gojowczk from gaining any rhythm in the first set.

Yet the second proved more of a challenge as the German saved four break points in his first service game, then used his momentum to break for a 3-1 lead.

Federer immediately broke back before later benefiting from an untimely double fault for another break and serving out for victory in just over an hour and a quarter.

World number seven Nishikori was not at his best, with the left-handed Mannarino’s flat groundstrokes neutralising his attacks and the Frenchman seemed to be heading for victory when he served for the match at 6-5.

Yet he double faulted on the third break point he faced in the game and Nishikori raced into a 6-2 lead in the deciding tiebreak.

Still, Mannarino kept fighting, saving two match points before the Japanese finally wrapped up victory after two hours and 33 minutes.

Eighth seeded American John Isner swept past Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-0 6-2, 10th seeded Croatian Marin Cilic beat Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-3 6-4, while Russia’s 14th seed Danill Medvedev beat American Mackenzie McDonald 7-5 6-0.

Tough win: World number two Simona Halep survived a tough challenge from Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova to win their third round match 7-6(3) 7-5 on Sunday.

The Romanian finally put away the 114th ranked Kozlova with eight consecutive points in the second set, a backhand winner proving the decider just as it had in the first set.

The tournament lost 23-times Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who retired against Garbine Muguruza with what organisers described as a viral illness. The Spaniard was ahead 6-3 1-0 at the time. Halep said her opponent had been tough to put away.

The victory advanced the French Open champion, who won Indian Wells in 2015, to the fourth round for the fifth time in six years.

The meeting was the first between the pair and featured big momentum swings.

After Kozlova claimed a 3-2 advantage in the first set, Halep won three consecutive games to go to set point at 5-3 on Kozlova’s serve.

With the former world number one’s groundstrokes failing her, Kozlova reeled off 11 of the next 12 points, breaking back for 5-5 with a forehand winner.

Halep finally won the set on her third opportunity with another trademark backhand down the line. The Romanian took four successive games for a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Kozlova again rallied to even the match at 5-5 before Halep reeled off the eight straight points to seal the win.

Reuters