California: Top ranked Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki triumphed on the centre court stage but it was a bruising day for a number of other top seeds in the California desert.
Nadal and Wozniacki on Saturday both easily advanced with Nadal defeating South African Rik de Voest 6-0, 6-2 and Wozniacki rolling over American wildcard Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-2 at the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters 1000 event.
But the fifth and sixth men’s seeds, Andy Murray and David Ferrer, weren’t so fortunate, losing their opening matches on the fourth day of the event.
They were joined on the sidelines Saturday by Ivan Ljubicic, who fell at the first hurdle in defending the title he won last year by beating Novak Djokovic in the final.
Nadal, who helped Spain win its first round Davis Cup tie against Belgium last week, now has two career wins over de Voest but it has been eight years between matches. Nadal won their only previous meeting in 2003 at a Challenger event in France when he was just 16.
“I think there have been a lot of things changes, no?,” Nadal said. “I am better player than in that moment. The worst thing is I am eight years older.”
Top seed Nadal, who had a bye in the first round, advances to the third round where he will play either Ryan Sweeting or Juan Monaco.
Wozniacki also had little trouble in her opening match, dispatching Stephens with a steady serve and precision forehand to win in just 68 minutes. Wozniacki clinched the match with a running forehand volley into the open court.
“It’s always nice to have a win and the first match is difficult,” Wozniacki said. “But I pulled through, so it’s nice.”
American qualifier Donald Young shocked world number five Murray 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 on Saturday.
Scotsman Murray looked rusty in his opening match and in his first career meeting against the 21-year-old Young. Murray has now lost his last seven sets.
“I started the match well but then when it got close I didn’t do anything to lift myself,” said Murray. “The crowd was for him and then he started to play better and I didn’t play my way back into the match.”
It marked the first victory over a top-10 opponent for Young, who has a 3-3 record this year.
Young was overjoyed with his victory and hopes it is a sign of good things to come.
“I am still thinking about it,” he said. “I’ve been in this position a couple of times with a few players and had not won the match.
“I just told myself this time I was going to see it through and not let the nerves get the best of me.”
Young had a successful junior career and turned pro at a young age but then his career hit the skids and he says he got lost in the shuffle.
“I was considered a bust at 17,” Young said. “It’s tough. You go through people really wanting you to win all the time and are really behind you to just writing you off.
“I think this time through here I’ve had time to think about all those things and work hard, and people are not paying as much attention to me like they used to.”
Spain’s Ferrer was also sent crashing, falling in the second-round to unseeded Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
The 32-year-old Croatian hammered nine aces against Ferrer who had already won titles this year in Auckland and Acapulco.
Karlovic closed out the 96-minute match with an ace to post his first win over Ferrer in three career meetings.
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro continued his impressive comeback from a wrist injury by rallying to beat Ljubicic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
A year ago, former world No. 3 Ljubicic beat Djokovic in the final but Del Potro was too much for him to handle Saturday.
“It’s not an easy draw, of course,” Ljubicic said of meeting del Potro in his opening match. “He’s a great player, and it was a great match. We had some great points but I came up short in the end.”
Del Potro has rebounded from an injury-marred 2010 to reach back-to-back semi-finals in San Jose and Memphis and then go on to win his eighth career title last month at Delray Beach.
There were surprises on the women’s side Saturday as well, as seventh seeded Li Na of China lost to countrywoman Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 and Dinara Safina of Russia ousted former two-time Indian Wells champion Daniela Hantuchova 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.