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Page last updated at Thursday, 20 March 2008, 07:41 GMT

Nadal fights back to beat Tsonga

Rafael Nadal
World number two Nadal is defending his title in Indian Wells

Rafael Nadal fought back from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Pacific Life Open and reach the quarter-finals.

In a thrilling match, Nadal avenged his Australian Open semi-final defeat by the Frenchman with a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 triumph.

Top seed Roger Federer, still looking for his first title of 2008, rattled out a 6-3 6-4 win over Ivan Ljubicic.

Maria Sharapova beat Daniela Hantuchova to reach the women's semi-finals.

Nadal and Tsonga split their first two sets at Indian Wells on tie-breaks but Tsonga edged ahead in the decider when Nadal hit a forehand long and was broken to go 4-2 down.

The French world number 17 served for the match at 5-3 but a string of wild errors handed the Spaniard the break back.

From then on, Tsonga's game crumbled and he was broken again at 6-5, leaving Nadal to serve out the match.


"A victory like this is always special and it gives me confidence," second seed Nadal said.

"I played better today than in Australia. It's always important to beat a player that beat me the last time, but it's not revenge."

Tsonga, who ended the match with 56 unforced errors, said: "It was not the same Jo. I'm not at my best, but I fought."

Nadal, the defending champion, meets American James Blake next after he eased past another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, 6-4 6-2.

Federer swept aside birthday boy Ljubicic, breaking the Croat three times to set up a meeting with Andy Murray's vanquisher Tommy Haas.

"I really felt good and thought I moved extremely well," said the Swiss. "I came up with some great plays at the right time."

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic saw off Guillermo Canas, who upset Federer in Indian Wells last year, 6-2 6-3.

"I think the characteristic of the top players is to play better and better, match after match, and I think I'm doing that," said Djokovic.

Unseeded American Mardy Fish ended Lleyton Hewitt's bid for a third Indian Wells title with a 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-4) win, while seventh seed David Nalbandian thrashed Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2 6-2.

In the women's competition, Sharapova continued her winning start to 2008 with victory over defending champion Hantuchova.

Rafael Nadal
World number two Nadal is defending his title in Indian Wells

The 20-year-old Australian Open champion came back from 5-2 down in the first set to record a 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 victory.

"In the first set, I felt like I didn't even belong on that court but I finally got my groove back," Sharapova said.

"She did everything better than I did in the first set and somehow I ended up winning it. That gave me the confidence."

Sharapova will now meet Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals after her fellow Russian notched up a 6-2 6-4 win over Agnieszka Radwanska.

The second seed broke the teenager in the first and third games of the first set to take control and broke in the seventh game of the second to seal it.

"I'm confident playing out there and it was a good win for me after losing to her in the Australian Open," said Kuznetsova.

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