INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday in a fourth-round match that saw the longtime rivals meeting much earlier in a tournament than usual.
Federer broke Nadal four times in advancing to the quarterfinals in 68 minutes. Although Nadal owns a 23-13 lead in their series, Federer has won three in a row for the first time, including an epic comeback in the Australian Open final two months ago at age 35.
"It's a nice feeling to win the last three," he said. "But most importantly, I won Australia. That was big for me."
Federer broke Nadal to open the match in front of a packed Stadium 1 crowd. Federer faced just one break point on his serve in the match, but he recovered with a big serve and two winning backhands to go up 2-0 in the first set.
"The main thing, he [took] the break in the first game, and I had break point in the next game, and [he came] back and he had a good serve," Nadal said. "When Roger has the advantage, his serve is so good. He has a lot of confidence with his serve. He's able to play much more relaxed."
Nadal wasn't too shabby either, serving three love games. But Federer's shot-making was superb, frequently kissing the lines off both sides.
Federer was crafty, too. Leading 5-1, he moved in quickly on Nadal's second serve, surprising Nadal, whose forehand sailed long. Federer's drop shots were well-timed, and even when a scrambling Nadal got to them in time, Federer answered with one of his 26 winners.
"When you serve well and stay on the offensive and you press, you can actually play some really good, aggressive tennis here," said Federer, a four-time winner at Indian Wells.
The two superstars hadn't played each other before the quarterfinals of an event since 2004 when they met in the third round at Miami. Wednesday's match was just the fifth time they weren't opposing each other in a final.
Another one of tennis' Big Four went down, too.
Novak Djokovic's 19-match winning streak at the desert tournament ended in a 6-4, 7-6 (3) loss to Nick Kyrgios. Djokovic joined Nadal and top-ranked Andy Murray, who was beaten in the second round, on the sidelines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.