Channeling the same game plan that reaped the ultimate reward in the Australian Open final in January, Roger Federer has put on a stunning display of aggression to defeat fifth seed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open. The Swiss prevailed 6-2, 6-3 to set a quarter-final showdown with Australian Nick Kyrgios and victory marked the first time he had defeated Nadal three times in a row in 36 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
Federer came out of the blocks in a hurry against Nadal on Wednesday. The Swiss ninth seed secured the opener 6-2, consistently finding his mark coming over the backhand to keep the Spaniard on the back foot.
Federer brought up a break point in the opening game, breaking when Nadal shanked a forehand into the stands for 1-0. He survived a break point and steadied to hold with a sublime backhand winner down the line for 2-0.
The Swiss continued to deliver off the backhand wing, his fifth backhand winner of the first set, which was followed by an explosive wrong-footing forehand winner to bring up a break point on the Spaniard’s serve at 3-1. Forced to raise his level, Nadal ripped an angled forehand crosscourt to draw the backhand error from Federer but it was a short reprieve. The Swiss secured the double break off a spectacular backhand return winner for 4-1 after 23 minutes.
Federer closed out the opening set in style, threading back-to-back forehand winners to bring up two set points and sealing it on his first with a serve-volley winner 6-2 after 34 minutes.
Determined to make a statement he would not go quietly, Nadal started the second set with authority, holding to love with a forehand winner and an ace out wide for 1-0. Federer’s aggression continued to gnaw at Nadal, however. His confidence surged further when he broke early for 2-1.
Redlining at 3-1, the Swiss struck a backhand winner down the line to bring up 15-30 but the fifth seed stemmed the flow, holding for 2-3. The pressure remained relentless, however, from the 36-year-old Swiss. He held to love for 4-2 off an ace out wide and drew the error with a looping backhand to change up the quick-fire pace.
Nadal was rarely in control of a point and when serving to stay in the match, a forehand clipped the net and failed to trickle over handing Federer two match points. He took it on his first with a crisp backhand return winner into the corner.