Indian Wells (California):Rafael Nadal fought off a determined challenge from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Wednesday, avenging an Australian Open defeat and reaching the quarterfinals of the Pacific Life Open.
Nadal, the men's defending champion and second seed at the 5.7 million-dollar WTA and ATP Masters Series event, defeated France's Tsonga 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, rallying from a 2-5 deficit in the third set to sneak out the win.
"The important thing is to be there all the time, to believe in the victory," said Nadal, who has held the world number two ranking for 139 straight weeks - all behind Swiss Roger Federer.
"Even if you're losing 5-2 in the third, try to be focused in every point. The normal thing is to lose, but if you are there, you're going to have one chance, no?"
The unheralded Tsonga had shocked Nadal in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, where his runner-up finish catapulted him from 38th to 18th in the world rankings.
Tsonga, who lost his only other meeting with Nadal, at the US Open last September, appeared poised for victory in the rubber match when he broke Nadal for a 4-2 lead in the third set, then held for 5-2.
But he was broken himself as he served for the match at 5-3, his deep forehand attempt missing wide on break point.
Two games later he dropped his serve again, a double-fault giving Nadal his third break point of the game, on which Tsonga produced another wayward forehand. That gave Nadal a 6-5 lead and he served it out easily.
Both players said the contest differed greatly from their Melbourne match, which Tsonga won in straight sets.
The slower hard court of Indian Wells played to Nadal's strengths, while Tsonga was more erratic. The Frenchman's big serve faded as the match wore on, with none of his 12 aces coming in the third set.
"It was not the same Jo," said Tsonga, who took a month off to rest and regroup prior to the first Masters Series event of the season.
"I'm not at my best, but today I fought. I'm not that far away, so that's really a positive point. I'm disappointed with the loss, but I know I'm among the best players."
Nadal downplayed the revenge aspect of the match.
"It's always important to beat a player that beat me the last time," he said. "But it's not revenge."
Third-seeded Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia eased into the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Argentian Guillermo Canas. He'll face unseeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, a 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 winner over South Korean Lee Hyung-Taik.
Argentinian seventh seed David Nalbandian also advanced, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2, 6-2, while unseeded German Tommy Haas, on the comeback trail after a third shoulder surgery last November, ousted 11th-seeded Briton Andy Murray 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The women's side saw an Australian Open rematch as well, as second-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova gained a measure of revenge for a third-round defeat in Melbourne with a 6-2, 6-4 quarter-final win over Agnieszka Radwanska.
In the semi-finals Kuznetsova will face Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova, the fourth seed, who beat defending champion Daniela Hantuchova 7-6 (7/2) 6-1.