INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Rafael Nadal is still perfect in 2022.
The Spaniard defeated 27th seed Daniel Evans 7-5, 6-3 on Monday in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, improving his record to 17-0 this year in pursuit of a fourth ATP Tour-leading title.
Nadal tied Roger Federer (2018) and Pete Sampras (1997) for the third-best overall start to a season in the Open era that began in 1968.
Daniil Medvedev’s rise to World No. 1 fell apart in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Gael Monfils. Medvedev needed to reach the desert quarterfinals to stay on top, where he replaced Novak Djokovic.
“Is it better to be number 1 for, say, a week in your life or never touch it?” Medvedev said. “You know, I think it’s still better to at least touch it.”
Djokovic will claim the No. 1 ranking next week. The Serbian is not vaccinated against COVID-19, so he was not allowed to enter the United States to play in Indian Wells or the upcoming Miami Open.
So far this year, nobody is touching Nadal.
He became the first player to win 400 matches at ATP Masters 1000 events.
After sitting out much of last year due to injury, Nadal has been on a hot streak. He won titles in Melbourne, the Australian Open for his 21st Grand Slam title and Acapulco, and is chasing a third career title of his own at Indian Wells.
Nadal’s victory over Evans under a scorching desert sun ended with the Spaniard serving out the match loveless. He hit a forehand winner on triple match point.
“It’s an important victory against a difficult opponent,” Nadal said. “He is not an easy opponent to play. He plays very well tactically, he uses his court very well, then he plays aggressive, changing rhythms on points.”
Before his first match in California, Nadal withdrew from the hard-court event in Miami, which begins March 21. He will turn 36 in June and suffers from chronic pain in his left foot and tendinitis in both knees.
“I can’t make drastic changes like I’ve done in the past,” he said, “which is why I decided to stop here and have three weeks before the clay season starts for me.”
Nadal survived a scare in his first match against Sebastian Korda. The 21-year-old American served for the match winning 5-2 and 5-4 in the final set.
“It was very important to be able to win these first two matches without playing fantastic, but today was a little better than the first day,” Nadal said.
Monfils reached the fourth round in Indian Wells for the fifth time in six years after the second loss of his career to a number one player. He knocked out Nadal in the Doha quarterfinals in 2009.
“I felt good today,” Monfils said. “Tactically, I was good. I am full of confidence.”
Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz defeated his compatriot and 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-0 and then plays Monfils.
In women’s action, No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit lost to Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5). No.6 seed Maria Sakkari defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-0 and No.20 Elise Mertens ended the streak of Australian qualifier Daria Saville, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
No.21 Veronika Kudermetova advanced when qualifier Marie Bouzkova retired with the Russian winning 6-4, 0-2.
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