By Leighton Ginn
INDIAN WELLS — After having some difficult moments the day before against Steve Johnson, Roger Federer just anticipated he would have his hands full against long-time rival Rafael Nadal.
As it turned out, it was one of his most dominant.
Federer needed just 68 minutes to beat Nadal in a surprisingly easy 6-2, 6-3 victory Wednesday in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
The ease was surprising, considering the two played a five-set classic at the Australian Open. Federer needed to rally in the fifth set to pick up his record 18th Grand Slam singles title.
“It was all about coming out and trying to play the way I did in Australia,” Federer said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that possible, to be quite honest, because the court is more jumpy here or more rough, so it’s hard to put the ball away.
“I said yesterday it was more a sprint than a marathon. So getting in the lead was crucial, and then staying on the offense and pressing was the goal for me.”
Federer will advance to the quarterfinals where he will face rising young star Nick Kyrgios, who upset No.2 Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive tournament and snapped his 19-match winning streak at Indian Wells, which included three consecutive titles.
While the Australian Open will go down as a classic match in a legendary rivalry, Wednesday’s match wasn’t as intriguing as Federer won so convincingly.
But over the last 24 hours, Federer didn’t think he could have such a commanding performance against Nadal, particularly after his struggles in a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Steve Johnson the day before.
“I don’t think we had quite the rhythm that we had in Australia, but we knew that going in. And I think he, especially from the baseline, he didn’t control the ball as well as he did in Australia,” Federer said. ” I actually surprised myself by the control I had on the baseline because, against Steve Johnson, I really struggled to control the ball. So I thought it was going to be even more crazy against Rafa with his spin and his lefty hook and everything. It was going to be much tougher.
“In practice this morning I hardly made any returns. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was going to be rough. But then I came into the match and I warmed up with Rafa. In those five minutes, I was like, ‘whew, I’m feeling pretty good and the spin is not bothering me so much.’ So I wondered why that is. And that stayed like this during the match, as well.”