Kuznetsova, Ivanovic crash out

INDIAN WELLS: Reigning champion Rafael Nadal, playing his first match in more than a month, reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Rainer Schuettler.

Nadal hadn’t played since retiring with a right knee injury while trailing Andy Murray by two sets in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

Nadal, who sped to a 5-1 lead with two breaks of serve in the opening set, then lost three games in a row before closing out the set. He needed only one break of serve, in the seventh game, and didn’t face a break point in the second set as he closed out.

Nadal next faces Croatian Mario Ancic, a 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over France’s Julien Benneteau.

Serbian Novak Djokovic, seeded second, survived some erratic play to emerge with a 6-1, 0-6, 6-2 victory over American Mardy Fish.

Among other seeded men advancing to the third round, fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4. Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ousted eighth-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic 7-6 (7/1), 6-0, and Spanish Fernando Verdasco entered the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Paraguayan Ramon Delgado.

On the women’s side, top-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova fell at her first hurdle as Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro downed the world No 3 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat Austrian Sybille Bammer 6-1, 7-5; Australian Samantha Stosur defeated France’s J Coin 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) and defending champion Vera Zvonareva struggled past Sloane Stephens of the US 6-4, 7-5.

Serbian Jelena Jankovic beat Croatian Petra Martic 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), but compatriot Ana Ivanovic fell 6-2, 6-4 to Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova. Belgian Kim Clijsters advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.