Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Jared Donaldson in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

INDIAN WELLS – World number two Rafael Nadal raced into the third round of the ATP Indian Wells Masters as Roger Federer made a less speedy but still successful start to his quest for a sixth title on Sunday.

Nadal, a three-time Indian Wells winner, needed just 72 minutes to get past overmatched Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-1.

Federer, who is seeking to break out of a tie with top seed Novak Djokovic for most titles in the California desert, looked set for a similarly easy time of it, but had to turn back a second-set challenge from German Peter Gojowczyk in a 6-1, 7-5 win.

Fourth-seeded Federer said he was relieved not to go to a second-set tiebreaker after falling behind 3-1 to the free-swinging German who is ranked 85th in the world.

The Swiss regained the break and, after saving four break points to make it 4-4 he cruised home.

“I struggled a little bit with my serving in that second set and that gave him chances. Because he was serving better he started to swing more freely and then it was tough,” Federer said. “I'm really happy I found a way in that second set.”

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Federer next faces compatriot Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion currently unseeded as he continues his return from injury.

Wawrinka won a taut thriller against 29th-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, finally sealing it on his fifth match point after three hours and 24 minutes when Fucsovics lofted a lob long.

'Positive step'

Nadal, playing his third tournament of a year that started with a crushing loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open final and included an early exit in Acapulco, converted five of his six break chances against Donaldson and never faced a break point himself.

He next faces Diego Schwartzman, who beat Spain's Roberto Carbralles 6-3, 6-1. Nadal is 6-0 against the Argentinian.

“Today was a very positive step for me, and next one going to be against a player that we know each other very well, we practiced a lot of times, and we played some tough matches,” Nadal said. “(He is) one of the best talents of the sport today so it's going to be a tough one against Diego.”

Rafael Nadal is safely into the next round of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Rafael Nadal is safely into the next round of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In other early matches, sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan survived a scare in a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over France's Adrian Mannarino.
Mannarino, ranked 52nd in the world, served for the match at 6-5 in the third.

He couldn't muster a match point and double-faulted on break point and that was enough of a window for Nishikori.

“I think in the tiebreak I played the best tennis of the match, I was really focused,” said Nishikori, who opened 2019 with a title in Brisbane and then reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Nishikori next faces 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who defeated France's Lucas Pouille 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

Eighth-seeded American John Isner routed Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin 6-0, 6-2, the most lopsided win of Isner's career.

He'll play Guido Pella, who won his first title at Sao Paulo last week. Pella ended the hopes of another Aussie qualifier, Alex Bolt, 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 6-3.

Tenth-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic downed Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 to book a meeting with 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 24th seed who beat American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-4.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)