Tennis: Nadal topples Verdasco to advance at Indian Wells

Rafael Nadal saved five set points to finish off a two-set victory over Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6 (11-9) on Tuesday in the third round at Indian Wells.

Nadal, the nine-time French Open champion who turns 30 in June, avenged his first-round loss to fellow Spaniard Verdasco at the Australian Open in January.

He moved a step closer to a fourth trophy in the California desert, where he took the title of the hardcourt ATP and WTA event in 2013, 2009 and 2007.

The fourth seeded Spaniard next faces German Alexander Zverev who defeated Gilles Simon in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

Nadal roared through the first set without dropping a game, but Verdasco came to life in the second, eventually forcing it to a tiebreaker.

Nadal fought off five set points before clinching it when Verdasco hit a backhand long to end the one hour, 41 minute third round match.

"It was a tough match, but I resisted," Nadal said. "I lost a few matches this year that I had a chance to win so I need to play more matches like this." Nadal improved to 15-3 overall against Verdasco but they have had some memorable contests since their first encounter in 2005 in Doha.

They played a brilliant three tiebreaker match at Cincinnati in 2011, went five sets in the semis of the 2009 Australian Open and earlier this year they played another five setter in Melbourne with Verdasco handing Nadal just his second ever first-round defeat in a Grand Slam.

Japan's Kei Nishikori won his third round match Tuesday defeating Steve Johnson 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5).

World number six Nishikori next faces ninth seeded American John Isner who beat France's Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Nishikori needed two tiebreakers and almost two hours to eliminate a stubborn Johnson.

"I thought I was patient today," Nishikori said. "Obviously, it's not easy. But I played some good tennis. So I'm looking forward to my next match." Spain's Feliciano Lopez defeated Roberto Bautista 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (10/12), 6-4.

On the women's side, defending Indian Wells champ Simona Halep moved on to the quarter-finals when her opponent Barbora Strycova retired in the second set with a respiratory problem, third seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3, and eighth seed Petra Kvitova defeated Nicole Gibbs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.