With the three superstars drawn in the same quarter, only one – at most – can make it to the semi-finals.
The weeding out will start in earnest on Wednesday, when Federer meets Nadal in the round of 16 in a reprise of the Australian Open final in January that saw the Swiss star claim an 18th Grand Slam crown. Three-time Indian Wells champion Nadal was the first through, defeating fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5.
Despite two “horrible” games, Nadal was pleased with his overall effort against Verdasco, a left-hander like himself who has pushed him in the past. The blip came after Nadal had broken for a 2-1 lead in the second set. He was promptly broken to love himself, then Verdasco held with a love game.
But Nadal gained the break he needed for a 6-5 lead in a game Verdasco book-ended with double faults, and served it out without a hitch. Federer edged American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) in a match in which neither player was able to break.
Djokovic downs del PotroDjokovic made it past dangerous Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who shocked the Serb star in the first round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year en route to singles silver.
Djokovic eked out the first set despite going down an early break, but couldn’t do the same in the second. (Rebecca Bryan/ Agence France-Presse)