With on-court temperatures touching 120 degrees, Rafael Nadal stayed cool in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Guido Pella in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Pella got off to a hot start, breaking Nadal in the third game of their first meeting. But the fifth-seeded Spaniard settled in and reeled off six of the next seven games to clinch the opener and break at the start of the second. Pella halted Nadal’s momentum by canceling out the break in the second game, but the Spaniard regained his lead in the fifth game and would win the last five games as he closed out victory in 81 minutes.
Nadal is coming off a runner-up showing in Acapulco (l. to Querrey), which marked his first outing since an epic five-set final with Roger Federer at the Australian Open. The Mallorcan has won three of his 28 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in the desert, compiling a 49-9 tournament record. He lifted the trophy in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
"I tried to play solid," said Nadal. "I tried to find the rhythm, and I think I did. For moments I played well; for moments I played a little bit less well. The important thing is I won, and I won in straight sets. I had some good feelings for a lot of moments."
The 30-year-old Nadal finds himself in the ‘group of death’ section of the draw, with the prospect of facing Federer again in the fourth round. For now, the left-hander advances to a meeting Fernando Verdasco, who claimed a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory over Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Nadal and Verdasco met in the third round in Indian Wells last year, when Nadal avenged his Australian Open loss to Verdasco from two months earlier.
"I haven't played one very bad match during the whole season," said Nadal. "I played some great matches. In Melbourne, I played some great matches. In Acapulco, I played well. In Brisbane, I played well. Let's see here. I'm very happy with the way I started the season. Now here is another opportunity. I know I have a very tough draw, and let's see."
Grigor Dimitrov has been one of the hot players at the start of the year and he showed no sign of letting up as he powered through his second-round match with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Mikhail Youzhny in 70 minutes.
The Bulgarian stated his intent in January by winning the title in Brisbane before reaching his second Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. He then won his hometown title in Sofia the following week.
The 25 year old, who works with Dani Vallverdu, will look to get past the third round in the desert for the first time when he faces either Jack Sock or Henri Laaksonen.