INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Rafael Nadal defeated error-prone Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night in the earliest meeting between the two rivals since they first played each other in 2004.
Nadal needed barely 11/2; hours to close out the defending champion in their 29th career meeting and the first in a quarterfinal. Nadal faced just two break points on his serve in the match.
Nadal and Federer usually don't play each other until the semifinals and finals of tournaments, but the Indian Wells draw pitted them against each other in their earliest meeting since a third-round match at Miami nine years ago.
Nadal returned to the ATP Tour a month ago, winning two of three tournaments on clay after missing seven months because of a left knee injury. He had his knee wrapped and at times appeared to have a slight limp.
Federer, at 31 the oldest player left in the draw, tweaked his back earlier in the tournament.
Nadal served a love game to even the first set 3-all, then earned the only break in the next game, taking a 4-3 lead on a backhand passing shot. He went on to win two of the final three games as Federer pulled shots wide or dumped them into the net.
Nadal advanced to a semifinal against No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4.
The women's draw was hit with the injury withdrawals of defending champion Victoria Azarenka and No. 7 seed Sam Stosur on Thursday.
Azarenka was scheduled to play No. 8 seed Caroline Wozniacki in a quarterfinal that would have pitted two former top-ranked players against each other. But she withdrew with a right ankle injury.
"It's already really painful, but it's very high risk to make it much worse," Azarenka said.
Stosur pulled out of her quarterfinal against No. 4 Angelique Kerber because of a right calf injury.
Wozniacki and Kerber moved into a semifinal against each other. No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 13 Maria Kirilenko will play in the other semi.