Federer launches bid for sixth Indian Wells title


Indian Wells (United States) (AFP)

Five-time Indian Wells champion Roger Federer thwarted a second-set challenge from Peter Gojowczyk to reach the third round of the ATP Masters event on Sunday with a 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Fourth-seeded Federer, like top seeded Novak Djokovic gunning for a sixth ATP Indian Wells Masters crown, said he was relieved not to go to a second-set tiebreaker after falling behind 3-1 to the free-swinging German who is ranked 85th in the world.

The Swiss regained the break and, after saving four break points to make it 4-4, he broke Gojowczyk for a 6-5 lead, the German double-faulting on break point to give Federer a chance to serve it out.

"The second set I think he saved some crucial break points with good serving. I think his serve really picked up.

"I struggled a little bit with my serving in that second set and that gave him chances. Because he was serving better he started to swing more freely and then it was tough.

"I'm really happy I found a way in that second set."

Federer could find himself fighting for a fourth-round berth against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion currently unseeded as he continues his return from injury.

Wawrinka was to face 29th-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics later Saturday.

World number two and second seed Rafael Nadal was set to launch his campaign against US wild card Jared Donaldson on Sunday night.

Nadal, a three-time Indian Wells winner, is playing his third tournament of the year after a runner-up finish to Djokovic at the Australian Open and a second-round loss to eventual champion Nick Kyrgios in the Mexico Open in Acapulco.

In other early matches, sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan survived a scare in a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over France's Adrian Mannarino.

Mannarino, ranked 52nd in the world, served for the match at 6-5 in the third.

He couldn't muster a match point and double-faulted on break point and that was enough of a window for Nishikori.

"I think in the tiebreak I played best tennis of the match, I was really focused," said Nishikori, who opened 2019 with a title in Brisbane and then reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Nishikori could get another Frenchman in the third round, when he will face either 30th-seeded Lucas Pouille or 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

Eighth-seeded American John Isner raced into the third round with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin.

He'll play Guido Pella, who ended the hopes of another Aussie qualifier, Alex Bolt, 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 6-3.