Rafael Nadal rises to the challenge again to see off Dan Evans

ATP Tour
Rafael Nadal

It was a contest laced with quality and as has been the story time and again over the first few weeks of 2022, Rafael Nadal found a way to come out on top.

Nadal extended his winning run to 17 matches by beating Britain’s Dan Evans in straight sets to reach the last 16 at Indian Wells, with his battling qualities coming to fore in the desert heat.

Nadal, who hit back from 5-2 down in the deciding set against USA’s Sebastian Korda in the previous round, won 7-5 6-3 against the British number two.

The 35-year-old Spaniard has won all 17 of his matches in 2022, beating Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final to claim a record 21st grand slam title before beating British number one Cameron Norrie to win the Mexican Open.

In his post-match interview, Nadal said: “I started playing better and better and think I finished the match well, so that’s important for the confidence and playing a tough opponent like Dan.

“It’s a good victory for me, so I’m very happy to beat Dan in the third round and happy to be here.

“The match in the beginning was difficult. He put me under some pressure combining his great slice backhand and the bounce has been quite low.

“It was not easy in the windy conditions here to put him in a tough position, but I hit a couple of passing shots in some important moments.”

Evans lacked no confidence in the opening set and made an impressive start, breaking the Spaniard in the third game to lead 3-1 and 4-2.

Nadal broke back in the eighth game to level it up at 4-4 and then saved a break point at 5-5 before eventually holding serve to lead 6-5.

Evans’ failure to take advantage in the previous game appeared to take its toll as he quickly fell 0-40 down on his serve and although the Brit saved one set point, Nadal sealed the second decisive break on the next point to take the set 7-5.

Nadal sensed his chance to build on his advantage and reeled off his fifth game in a row to lead 3-0 in the second set.

Evans stopped the rot to hold serve in the fourth game and pushed Nadal hard in the fifth game, earning a break point before the Spaniard held to lead 4-1.

The British number two showed plenty of spirit to hold serve twice more to make it 5-3, but Nadal raced through his next service game, setting up match point with a brilliant backhand down the line and sealing victory with a forehand winner.

The win keeps Nadal’s stunning unbeaten record intact for 2022, with the Spaniard now having a chance to make up ground on Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev in the ATP rankings after their defeats at Indian Wells.