World number two Roger Federer survived a scare in the fourth round of the Paribas Open in Indian Wells, needing three sets to defeat his countryman and good friend Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5.
The combined ATP and WTA tournament in the desert resort town of Indian Wells, two hours east of Los Angeles, is the first time the big four of Novak Djokovich, Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal have been together, in combat, since 2012 Wimbledon.
With Nadal’s comeback gathering momentum, his true test of whether he still has the game to trouble the top three will come in the quarter finals against arch rival Federer on Friday morning AEDT.
Nadal took two hours 33 minutes to get past Latvian qualifier Ernest Gulbis 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the fourth round on the fast paced hard courts, his least favourite surface.
While most of the US are only just starting to crawl out from under a winter snow blanket, the desert resort has been turning on constant low 30s temperatures for the players, catching some off-guard who flew in from European indoor tournaments.
Andy Murray has spent the last two weeks training hard in the heat in Florida to increase his fitness in an effort to avoid three consecutive first round losses at this tournament.
He also survived a scare needing three sets to get passed Russian Evgeny Donsky in his first match.
The women’s draw could see world number two Victoria Azarenka snatch back top spot from Serena Williams as both sisters are absent, continuing a boycott of this tournament allegedly due to some racist comments made by local press several years ago.
Azarenka will face former world number one Caroline Wozniaki in a quarter final tomorrow morning AEDT.
Second seed Maria Sharapova is yet to drop a set on route to the semi-finals after beating Italian sixth seed, Sara Errani 7-6, 6-2 in their quarter final clash.
The Australian flag is being flown by Samantha Stosur who defeated 24th seed German Mona Bartel in three sets 4-6, 6-2,6-3 to move into the quarter finals against another German, fourth seed Angelique Kerber.
Lleyton Hewitt’s giant killing run of taking out 15th seed John Isner 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round was halted by 18th seed, Wawrinka.
Bernard Tomic and Matthew Ebden both lost in the second round.
Casey Dellacqua’s stellar year on the doubles court continued by reaching the semi-finals with Japanese partner Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest player on the women’s circuit at 42.
Dellacqua won the title in Pattaya, Thailand with Krumm and was runner up at the Australian Open with, 16 year old starlet Ashleigh Barty.
Australian number one Marinko Matosevic is still continuing to show solid form since teaming up with fellow Australian coach Nathan Healey in February, making the third round by defeating 14th seed Juan Monaco7-5,6-0 and wildcard veteran Tommy Robredo7-5, 6-2.
Healey, a former coach of Lleyton Hewitt, has embarked on a calmer mental approach for Matosevic, which brought instant results in Memphis where he defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov en route to the semi-finals against eventual champion Kai Nishikori, having to withdraw with the return of foot injury after losing the first set.
Matosevic’s ranking rose to a career high of 39 after those results. He has since dropped back to 53 after not defending his points at Delray Beach.