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Indian Wells: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal advance

Alongside Novak Djokovic, the three stars are packed together in a remarkable bottom half of the draw.

AFP | Indian Wells |

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reached the third round of the ATP Indian Wells Masters, Federer flying through with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over France's Stephane Robert in just 51 minutes while Nadal opened his account with a steady 6-3, 6-2 victory over Argentina's Guido Pella.

Alongside World No.2 Novak Djokovic, the three stars are packed together in a remarkable bottom quarter of the draw.

Ninth-seeded Federer, resurgent after a 2016 season marred by injury, downed Nadal in an epic Australian Open final to secure his 18th Grand Slam title.

He hit a speed bump in Dubai this month, failing to convert three match points in a third-round loss to Evgeny Donskoy — but he was firing on all cylinders against the 81st-ranked Robert.

"Very happy," said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year with a knee injury that required surgery. "Knee is a thing of the past, which is great. I don't even have to think or talk about it."

Nadal was pleased with a "solid" opening effort against Pella, made trickier by the oven-like mid-day temperatures and the fact that Pella, like Nadal, is a left-hander.

"I didn't try to do amazing things. I tried to play solid," the fifth-seeded Spaniard said. "For moments I played well. For moments I played a little bit less well. Important thing, I won, and I won in straight sets."

Nadal knows he'll have to turn up the intensity if he wants to end a hard court title drought stretching back to 2014.

The bottom half of the draw also features fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who eased past Britain's Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.

But sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final, was an early casualty, beaten 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 by 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

The jam-packed half of the draw is a contrast to the wide-open top half, which lost a lot of its lustre on Saturday when world number one Andy Murray was stunned by 129th-ranked Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

"That's sport, no?" Nadal said. "Yesterday probably Andy didn't play his best match and Vasek served very well. So then you go to a tiebreak and anything can happen."