Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and world number one Rafa Nadal reached the quarter-finals at Indian Wells on Wednesday without dropping a set while eighth-seeded Andy Roddick was ousted.
Djokovic extended his perfect record this season to 15-0 by pounding fellow Serb Viktor Troicki 6-0 6-1 and Spanish left-hander Nadal had to work a little harder before seeing off Indian qualifier Somdev Devvarman 7-5 6-4.
However, big-serving American Roddick was eliminated 6-3 7-6 by Frenchman Richard Gasquet who clinched a gripping second set tiebreak 7-5 after his opponent had earlier been warned for racket abuse.
Gasquet will face third seed Djokovic in the last eight and Nadal will take on Croat Ivo Karlovic, a 7-6 6-2 winner against 23rd-seeded Spaniard Albert Montanes earlier on Wednesday.
Although Djokovic needed five match points before sealing victory in 66 minutes, he outclassed his good friend and doubles partner with a superb display of sliced backhands, crunching top-spin forehands and delicate drop shots.
With late afternoon shadows lengthening on the showpiece stadium court, he ended the match with a rasping backhand winner down the line before saluting the crowd by raising both arms skywards.
“I am playing probably the best tennis of my life these last three months,” Djokovic, 23, said courtside. “And it all started with the Davis Cup win (in December’s final) where Viktor was a hero.”
Djokovic, who claimed his second grand slam crown at the Australian Open in January and his 20th ATP title at last month’s Dubai championships, broke Troicki three times to sweep through the first set.
He again broke his opponent in the fourth and sixth games of the second before the two Serbs treated the stadium crowd to the best rallies of the match in a protracted final game.
Nadal, champion here in 2007 and 2009, broke Devvarman twice to win a tight opening set and the second went with serve until the Spaniard again broke in the decisive 10th game.
Devvarman endeared himself to the crowd watching the action on the showpiece stadium court with his gritty play and occasional winners but Nadal finally sealed victory with a sublime passing shot.
“For sure, he did well and had a very good tournament,” the Spaniard said of the first Indian to reach the fourth round at Indian Wells.
Gasquet, the 19th seed, raced into a 4-1 lead in his tiebreak with Roddick but the American clawed his way back to 5-5 before the Frenchman ended the match with a stunning backhand service return winner down the line.
“It feels incredible for me to be in the quarter-finals here,” Gasquet said after beating Roddick for just a second time in five meetings.
“I did well with my serve and my backhand, especially on match point. I had nothing to lose and it would have been difficult for me in a third set.”
Roddick, who was warned for racquet abuse by chair umpire Fergus Murphy when trailing 1-3 in the second set, applauded the Frenchman’s performance.
“He played really well,” said the American, runner-up here last year. “He outplayed me from the first ball. He was obviously very confident.
“I tried to force it and be more aggressive in the second (set), but when you play that way, it starts coming in bunches. You win in bunches and you lose in bunches.”
Earlier, Spaniard Tommy Robredo and former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina booked their places in the last eight.
Robredo, despite being hampered by a hamstring strain, crushed American Sam Querrey 6-1 6-3 and Del Potro came from 1-6 down in the second set tiebreak to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 7-6.