Rafael Nadal extended his winning run to 17 matches by beating Britain’s Dan Evans in straight sets to reach the last 16 at Indian Wells. Nadal, who hit back from 5-2 down in the deciding set against USA’s Sebastian Korda in the previous round, won 7-5, 6-3 against the British No 2.
The 35-year-old Spaniard has won all 17 of his matches in 2022, beating Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final to claim a record 21st grand slam title before beating British No 1 Cameron Norrie to win the Mexican Open.
“I started playing better and better and think I finished the match well, so that’s important for the confidence and playing a tough opponent like Dan,” said Nadal. “It’s a good victory for me, so I’m very happy to beat Dan in the third round and happy to be here.
“The match in the beginning was difficult. He put me under some pressure combining his great slice backhand and the bounce has been quite low. It was not easy in the windy conditions here to put him in a tough position, but I hit a couple of passing shots in some important moments.”
Evans lacked no confidence in the opening set and made an impressive start, breaking the Spaniard in the third game to lead 3-1 and 4-2. Nadal broke back in the eighth game to level it up at 4-4 and then saved a break point at 5-5 before eventually holding serve to lead 6-5.
Evans’ failure to take advantage in the previous game appeared to take its toll as he quickly fell 0-40 down on his serve and although the Brit saved one set point, Nadal sealed the second decisive break on the next point to take the set 7-5. Nadal sensed his chance to build on his advantage and reeled off his fifth game in a row to lead 3-0 in the second set.
Evans stopped the rot to hold serve in the fourth game and pushed Nadal hard in the fifth game, earning a break point before the Spaniard held to lead 4-1. Evans showed plenty of spirit to hold serve twice more to make it 5-3, but Nadal raced through his next service game, setting up match point with a brilliant backhand down the line and sealing victory with a forehand winner.
Medvedev was beaten in three sets by inspired French veteran Gaël Monfils and the Russian will relinquish his world No 1 status as a result.
Medvedev will hand back top spot in the rankings to Novak Djokovic next Monday after slipping to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 defeat. He appeared in control after winning the last 11 points of the first set, but 35-year-old Monfils stepped up a gear and produced a thrilling display of carefree hitting in the final two sets to win in just over two hours.
Monfils will play Carlos Alcaraz in the last 16 after the Spanish teenager thrashed countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-0.