Top seed Rafela Nadal survived a scare from Radek Stepanek before winning his BNP Paribas Open second-round match in three tight sets at Indian Wells on Saturday.
In his first match as defending champion, the Spaniard was stretched to the limit before prevailing 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a nighttime clash that lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes in the California desert.
Nadal served eight double faults and was broken three times, but broke his Czech opponent the same number of times, including twice in the final set.
The pivotal moment came in the sixth game of the third set, when Nadal fended off three break points to hold serve.
Earlier in the day, Briton Andy Murray recorded his 300th hard-court victory when he beat Stepanek’s compatriot Lukas Rosol in three sets.
Fifth seed Murray recovered from a slow start to beat his opponent 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 as the top seeds took to the courts for the first time after receiving first-round byes.
Only five active players have won more Tour-level hard-court matches, with Roger Federer having bagged the most at 575.
The seventh-seeded Federer dominated the first set of his match on Saturday, but was taken to a tie-break in the second before prevailing 6-2, 7-6 (5) against French qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu, while Swiss compatriot and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka clinched a 6-3, 7-5 win over Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic.
Australian Lleyton Hewitt failed to notch his 600th career win when he lost to South African Kevin Anderson 7-6(5) 6-4. Hewitt saved 10 of 11 break points, but was unable to break the tall 17th seed’s powerful serve.
There was high drama in another match, as Colombian Alejandro Falla saved a match point at 5-2 down in the third set to beat Polish 18th seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
On the women’s side, top seed Li Na beat Chinese compatriot Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5. Australian Open champion Li notched six breaks as Zheng struggled on serve.
Defending champion Maria Sharapova cruised in her first match, beating German Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-4 in barely an hour.
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