One of the greatest rivalries in tennis comes to Indian Wells tonight, when Roger Federer faces Rafael Nadal in a quarterfinal match at the BNP Paribas Open in their first meeting in a year.
The match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden will be the 29th meeting between Federer and Nadal, the first since Federer's 6-3, 6-4 victory in the semifinals of last year's BNP Paribas Open. Federer leads the series, 18-10, including a 6-5 advantage on hard courts.
Federer earned his way into the quarterfinals by defeating Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5, Wednesday.
Federer was serving for the match leading 5-4 in the second set, but had his serve broken. Wawrinka had a 2-1 lead in the third set and had his serve broken. Federer got the decisive break in the 12th game to close out the two-hour, 20-minute match.
"I should (have) maybe closed it out in the second set, but he did well to stay in it," Federer said after defeating Wawrinka for the 13th time in their 14 meetings.
"At the end, I don't know what (got) me through. Maybe it's the experience or maybe (I was) a bit more calm in those moments. I'm not sure. Today I think I was a little lucky to come through it in the end."
Nadal defeated qualifier Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, Wednesday, in two hours, 33 minutes. The match ended at 9:47 p.m., when the night session was to have started at 7 p.m.
"To win matches in days like today are more important that ever for me, and I'm very happy about what I did on court," said Nadal, who had slipped to fifth in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings after being sidelined for seven months because of a knee injury.
"I'm happy about the attitude. With all the problems, I was able to keep being focused and keep winning."
The loss ended Gulbis' 13-match winning streak.
"I was more aggressive," said Gulbis, who was playing for the 14th time in 19 days. "I went for my shots much more than him. But he did really incredibly well, as he always does, on the important points. It's really tough to beat the guy."
Gulbis has lost to Nadal all five times they have met.
Today's play on the main stadium court will begin at 11 a.m. with a women's quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany and seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia.
It will be followed by the day's other men's quarterfinal, which will match sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic against unseeded South African Kevin Anderson, who is 0-5 against Berdych.
The women's top seed, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, will face eighth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the next match.
An epic day of play Wednesday concluded at 1:51 a.m. today when Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the world's top-ranked men's player, completed a 6-0, 7-6 (6) victory over 23rd-seeded Sam Querrey.
"I had a few unforced errors and he started to play better," Djokovic said after improving to 16-0 for the year and increasing his winning streak to 21 matches dating back to 2012.
"That's why he came back, but I felt throughout the whole match, I had control and was moving and hitting well, so I'm very happy with the performance."
Djokovic's victory was preceded by second-seeded Maria Sharapova's 7-6 (6) 6-2 victory over sixth-seeded Sara Errani of Italy that ended shortly after midnight.
Sharapova faced a set point when she trailed 5-3 in the ninth game and when she was behind 6-5 in the tiebreaker of the 82-minute long first set.
"This definitely wasn't my best match of the tournament," Sharapova said. "I started quite slowly today. But I'm happy I've given myself another opportunity to be in the semifinals here, one of the toughest stages of one of the toughest tournaments for us."
Sharapova will face fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in a semifinal Friday. Kirilenko, who is seeded 13th, began women's quarterfinal singles play Wednesday by upsetting fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
"Maria played extremely well today -- it's really a great result for her," Sharapova said. "It's never easy to play against a compatriot but one of us will go through to the final, which is one good thing. We always have difficult matches against each other."