Federer, Nadal, Williams cruise at ATP/WTA Indian Wells

Federer, Nadal, Williams cruise at ATP/WTA Indian Wells

Kenny Awotorebo

Former champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal breezed through their Indian Wells openers and Serena Williams stepped up her comeback from a 14-year boycott with a similar crushing victory.

Second seed Federer on Sunday opened his bid for a fifth Indian Wells title by easing to a 6-4, 6-2 second round victory over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. Nadal also opened his campaign on a successful note, blitzing Igor Sijsling 6-4, 6-2 in the joint WTA and ATP hardcourt tournament.

Federer, who is making his 15th appearance in the California desert, advances to the third round, where he will face Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who beat Federer earlier this year at the Australian Open.

“It was important to get a good start. I had to stay focused and try to stay aggressive on the return which isn’t always easy,” Federer said.

“It was a bit breezy and I had to be careful at times but it is good to get the first win.”

The 17-time Grand Slam winner Federer is ranked second in the world and has a shot at reclaiming the top ranking with a good showing at Indian Wells.

Federer said he is looking forward to getting another shot so soon at Seppi who beat him in four sets at the Australian Open in January.

“It was a tough match. It slipped away from me,” Federer said.

Top seed Serena Williams stepped up her comeback from a 14-year Indian Wells boycott by storming into the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-0 demolition of error-prone Zarina Diyas.

World number one Williams needed just 53 minutes to dismiss Diyas, blasting six aces and breaking the world number 32 six times in front of a crowd of about 10,500.

“This is going in the right direction,” Williams said. “I was able to be a little more consistent today.”

Former US Fed Cup player Sloane Stephens defeated two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 6-4 to set up a clash with Williams with the winner advancing to the quarter-finals.

– Unforced errors –

Diyas had seven double faults and committed a rash of unforced errors, especially in the final game, when she had three in a row to bow out in calamitous fashion.

Williams is playing in her first tournament since winning a sixth Australian Open crown and a 19th Grand Slam title.

The American looked more relaxed against Diyas than she did in her first match on Friday when she survived a tough contest against the versatile Monica Niculescu for a 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Williams won the Indian Wells crown in 1999 at age 17 and again in 2001 when she rallied to beat Kim Clijsters in the final 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 after a controversial walkover when Venus Williams pulled out of the sisters’ semi-final at the last minute with an injury.

Serena said earlier in the week that she is trying to forget the events of 2001, when the then 19-year-old was booed during the Clijsters final. Some fans had accused her of rigging matches against her sister and Serena countered by saying that a few resorted to hurling racial slurs at her and her family members.

The 28-year-old Spaniard Nadal, who has won this event three times, advances to the next round where he will face American Donald Young.

The 14-time Grand Slam winner came into the tournament after winning the title in Buenos Aires.

Nadal, who is seeded third, broke Sijsling three times and only lost one point on his first serve (22 of 23) in the 62-minute center court match.

“I think I played solid match for the first match,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy with the way I played. I played with not too many mistakes, winning a good percentage of points with my serve.”

Last year’s Indian Wells runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska became the first big name to fall in the women’s field, as the seventh seed lost 6-4, 6-4 to Britain’s Heather Watson.

In men’s action Sunday, Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic beat Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4; Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria outlasted Australia’s Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) and Robin Haase defeated Swiss seventh seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

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