Nadal holds off upstart Zverev in 3 sets at Indian Wells
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Rafael Nadal rallied from a set down and fought off a match point in the third set to beat Alexander Zverev 6-7 (8), 6-0, 7-5 Wednesday and reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in pursuit of a fourth title.
Zverev, an 18-year-old German ranked 58th in the world and in his second full year on the ATP Tour, blew a 5-2 lead in the third when he was serving for the match leading 5-3, 40-30. He made three straight forehand errors to give Nadal the break.
''I am especially happy about the mentality on court, the spirit of fight during the whole match, believing that I can win a match during the whole time even in the tougher situations,'' Nadal said.
Novak Djokovic beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3 to stay on track for a potential semifinal against Nadal. Kei Nishikori outlasted John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) and next plays Nadal.
''I'm actually glad to have a match like this with not much complications,'' said Djokovic, who was pressed in his first two wins.
Serena Williams beat defending champion Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3, punctuating the victory with her seventh ace. Halep has lost to Williams six of the seven times they've played and the Romanian has yet to successfully defend a title in her career. Halep had nine winners to 28 for Williams.
Williams advanced to the semifinals, where she will play Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6 (3).
Nadal allowed just two points in his last two service games to escape on a day when the men's draw was dominated by younger players beating veterans. David Goffin, a 25-year-old Belgian, defeated No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) and 25-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic took out No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7).
Marin Cilic beat No. 8 Richard Gasquet 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 as temperatures reached 91 degrees (32 C) under cloudless skies in the California desert. Cilic next plays Goffin, while Raonic will play Gael Monfils, who beat Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-4. Delbonis had upset Andy Murray in the third round.
Goffin ended a 14-match skid against top-10 opponents. Zverev has lost all seven meetings against such competition. Cilic hadn't beaten a top-10 player in 1 1/2 years until he dispatched 10th-ranked Gasquet.
Zverev, a son of a former Russian pro player, netted a forehand volley on his lone match point.
''I mistimed it completely. I was wrong-footed there. I played it kind of too early and then the ball was too far in front of me,'' he said. ''I missed probably the easiest shot I had the whole match.''
Zverev got broken at love in his last service game, double-faulting to trail 6-5. Nadal began hitting harder and jerking the teenager back and forth along the baseline.
''Rafa did what he does best; he was fighting,'' Zverev said. ''He's known for that.''
Nadal has called Zverev a possible future No. 1 player and his recent results indicate promise. Besides pushing Nadal to the limit, the teenager has lost twice to Berdych, once 7-5 in the third and the other 6-4 in the fifth.
''I know how tough losses feel right now,'' Zverev said, still upset with himself. ''It's a big honor for me to hear something like that from Rafa because he's been there. We'll see what I can accomplish.''
Zverev had nine aces, with his first serve sometimes registering 130 mph or more and his second serve around 120 mph. His 30 winners were two more than Nadal, but Zverev had 47 unforced errors.
Djokovic watched Nadal's match and came away impressed with Zverev.
''He has a very bright future if he continues playing this way. He's on the right path,'' Djokovic said.
Ranked 18th in the world, Goffin improved to 2-26 against top-10 players, having beaten Raonic in the quarterfinals at Basel in 2014. He has gone to three sets in each of his matches so far. He saved two match points to beat wild card Frances Tiafoe in the second round and then rallied from a set down to outlast Guido Pella in the third round.
''I was struggling with my serve and it was difficult with the heat,'' Goffin said. ''In the third, it's tough to fight again with the heat and with the level of Stan. The tiebreaker is like you flip a coin.''
Ranked ninth and winner of two titles already this year, Wawrinka struggled mightily in the 2 1/2-hour match that featured 13 service breaks, with Wawrinka dropping serve seven times.
''Was a match without brain, let's put it that way,'' Wawrinka said. ''If you want to win matches, you need to stay focused, even if you had break up in the second or in the third.''