It’s down to the final eight in the desert and Rafael Nadal is still standing. The gritty Spaniard rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the third set yesterday afternoon to defeat flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 in a fourth-round match-up at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif. Nadal’s victory avenged a stunning 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 blowout loss to Tsonga in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January and was clearly the most scintillating of the eight men’s Round of 16 matches on Wednesday. On the ropes, Nadal broke back in the ninth and 11th games of the third set and then served it out, punctuating the victory with an overhead smash to end the 3-hour-and-3-minute marathon. The hard-hitting Tsonga played brilliantly at times, but his mistakes cost him in the end. The Frenchman had 47 winners and 56 unforced errors, while the steady and tenacious Nadal hit 27 winners with only 27 unforced errors. Nadal, the defending champion, insisted he wasn’t out for revenge, but acknowledged the importance of the match. “He’s going to be one of the rivals for this year, will try to be in the top positions, so I try to win,” said the No. 2-seeded Spaniard. “These matches are very important always.” Tsonga, who vaulted from No. 212 in 2006 to No. 17 this year, considered the match very important also, but for another reason. “I would like to show everybody my run in the Australian Open was not luck,” the Frenchman said. “I want to prove to everybody I can play at this level, so I’m disappointed about this.” Nadal will play American James Blake, the No. 9 seed, in the second quarterfinal tonight. Blake defeated France’s Richard Gasquet, the No. 8 seed, 6-4, 6-2 under the lights last night. No. 1 Roger Federer, bidding for his first title in 2008, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 23 Ivan Ljubicic following the Blake-Gasquet match. In the other contests, No. 3 Novak Djokovic advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 16 Guillermo Canas; No. 7 David Nalbandian beat No. 22 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2, 6-2; Tommy Haas edged No. 11 Andy Murray 2-6, 7-5, 6-3; Mardy Fish topped No. 24 Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 and Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Hyung-Taik Lee 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. Djokovic faces Wawrinka this afternoon in the first quarterfinal. Tomorrow, in the top half of the draw, Federer goes against Haas and Nalbandian meets Fish.