Rafael Nadal avenged a fresh loss to a fellow Spaniard at the Indian Wells Masters hardcourt tournament in California on Tuesday.
Nadal saved five set points to finish off a two-set victory over Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6 (11/9) in the third round on the main stadium court.
Men's top seed Novak Djokovic, who is aiming for his third straight and a record fifth overall Indian Wells crown, defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-5 in the night match.
Nadal, the nine-time French Open champion who turns 30 in June, avenged his first-round loss to Verdasco at the Australian Open in January.
Nadal moved a step closer to a fourth trophy in the California desert, where he took the title in 2013, 2009 and 2007.
The swashbuckling Spaniard next faces German teen Alexander Zverev who defeated Gilles Simon in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.
Nadal, who is seeded fourth, roared through the first set without dropping a game, but Verdasco came to life in the second, eventually forcing a tiebreak.
Nadal fought off five set points before clinching it when Verdasco hit a backhand long to end the 1 hour, 41 minute contest.
“It was a tough match, but I resisted,” said Nadal, who broke Verdasco five times in the match. “I lost a few matches this year that I had a chance to win so I need to play more matches like this.”
Verdasco was not going down without a fight. Serving in the tiebreaker – and down 6-7 on match point – he challenged an out call and won, reversing the judge’s call and allowing him to level at 7-7.
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 the Cincinnati Masters 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.
“I have to go through these things,” said Nadal. “Normally he serves better than me in a tiebreak.
“In these kind of matches I have more to lose than him, so he’s able to play very aggressive.
“He has amazing shots. When he arrives at a tiebreak, you know you’re in trouble.”
Japan’s Kei Nishikori won his third round match Tuesday defeating Steve Johnson 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5).
World No 6 Nishikori next faces ninth seeded American John Isner who beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
Dominic Thiem, beating Jack Sock, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, victorious over Sam Querrey, also reached the last 16 stage of the season’s first Masters 1000 tournament.
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