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Nadal survives a scare

- Sania-Cara reach quarters; Maria, Li triumph
Ana Ivanovic, after her win over Elina Svitolina

Indian Wells: Top seed Rafa 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.

The Spaniard, in his first match as defending champion, was stretched to the limit before prevailing 2-6, 6-4 ,7-5 in a night match that lasted two hours, 24 minutes in the California desert.

Nadal served eight double faults and was broken three times, but he also broke his Czech opponent three 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, Briton Andy Murray recorded his 300th hardcourt victory when he beat Stepanek’s compatriot Lukas Rosol in three sets.

Fifth seed Murray recovered from a slow start to beat his Czech opponent 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 as the top seeds took to the courts for the first time after receiving first round byes.

“I got broken three times in a row the end of the first set, beginning of the second,” Murray told reporters. “I just kind of kept going and found a way to win, which is always the most important thing.”

Only five active players have won more tour-level hardcourt matches, headed by Roger Federer (575).

Seventh seed Federer dominated the first set 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 was beaten by South African Kevin Anderson 7-6(5), 6-4.

The veteran Hewitt saved 10 of 11 break points but was unable to break the tall 17th seed’s powerful serve in the match.

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).

Among women, 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 made short work of German Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-4 in barely an hour.

Although Sharapova had seven double-faults, she didn't face a break point as she advanced her bid to add a third title in the California desert to go with those she won last year and in 2006.

The former world No. 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion's 2013 campaign was cut short in August by a shoulder injury that ruled her out of the US Open.

Ana Ivanovic, seeded 11, had to fight hard to gain the edge over world No. 43 Elina Svitolina.

Down a set, the world No. 13 had to regroup and find glimpses of her best tennis to safely sail through the third round. Ana won 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(1) after 2 hours and 28 minutes.

Petra Kvitova easily advanced to the third round, after beating Coco Vandeweghe by 6-1, 6-3.

In the women’s doubles, fifth seeds Sania Mirza and Cara Black reached the quarter finals following a straight sets victory over Raquel Kops–Jones and Abigail Spears.

The Indo-Zimbabwean pair beat the unseeded American duo 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 12 minutes in the second round. Sania and Cara saved five of the eight break chances they faced and converted five of the nine chances they got. They won 59 points to 44 of their rivals.

Sania and Cara have not gone beyond the quarter finals in the four tournaments they have played this season.