Three time champion Rafael Nadal shrugged off an injury scare to set up a mouth watering semi final clash with arch rival Roger Federer at the first Master’s series event of the year in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open. The other semi final will be contested by the Austrian Dominic Thiem and the 2016 finalist Milos Raonic of Canada.
The second seeded Nadal, a former champion in 2007, 2009 and 2013, dropped serve in the third game of the first set but broke back to force a tie-break which he won easily 7-2. In the second set Nadal was the first to break serve in the fifth game before Khachanov broke back in the eighth game.
Inevitably it went to a fourth consecutive tie-breaker between the two and the sixth overall and Nadal clinched it 7-2 to win the match 7-6(2),7-6(2) in two hours and seventeen minutes to set up a 39th career meeting with the Swiss superstar. The 32 year old Nadal holds a 23-15 head to head record against the 37 year old Federer. The two have played thrice before at Indian Wells. The Swiss won in 2012 and 2017, while the Spaniard won in 2013.
Earlier on in the day, Roger Federer ended the impressive run of the 67th ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4,6-4 in only an hour and fourteen minutes. The fourth seeded Federer who won five titles in 2004-2006, 2012 and 2017 saved both the break points he faced in the last two service games of the match and broke once in each set. Hurkacz had upset the 28th seeded Lucas Pouille, sixth seeded Kei Nishikori and the 24th seeded Denis Shapovalov to reach the quarter finals for the first time at a Master’s series event in his career and is now assured of breaking into the Top 50 of the ATP rankings.
The 2016 finalist Milos Raonic of Canada breezed past the lucky loser from Serbia Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3,6-4 in only one hour and twelve minutes. The 130th ranked Serb had made it to the main draw as a lucky loser following the withdrawal of the fifth seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Raonic served 13 aces and saved all three break points he faced and broke serve once in each set to advance to a semi final clash against the seventh seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem who advanced courtesy of a walkover from the Frenchman Gael Monfils.
In the round of sixteen matches played on Wednesday, in the only match that went to the third set, Hurkacz defeated the left handed Denis Shapovalov 7-6(3),2-6,6-3 to set up a meeting with Federer who only faced token resistance in the latter stages of the second set in his 6-1,6-4 win over the Briton Kyle Edmund, seeded 22nd. Federer saved all seven break points he faced while converting on three out of seven break point chances.
In a night match, Gael Monfils was too strong for the German veteran Phillip Kohlschreiber as he won 6-0,6-2. The 35 year old German had upset the Australian Nick Kyrgios, winner of the Acapulco event and then top seeded Novak Djokovic in the previous rounds but lost tamely in 58 minutes, winning only 28 points in the match to Monfils’ tally of 58 points. Nadal beat the Serb Filip Krajinovic 6-3,6-4.
Other winners included Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic who beat the 40 year old Croat Ivo Karlovic and the German Jan-Lennard Struff respectively with the identical scoreline of 6-4,6-3. The Russian twelveth seed Karen Khachanov upset the eighth seeded American John Isner 6-4,7-6(1). The 2012 finalist Isner was the lone American in the round of sixteen. The quarter final lineup w as completed by Miomir Kecmanovic who advanced after Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka retired after dropping the first set.
The following is the semi final lineup with my pick mentioned first :-
Milos Raonic (13) (11-4) v. Dominic Thiem (7) (7-4); Raonic leads 2-0
Roger Federer (4) (12-1) v. Rafael Nadal (2) (11-2); Nadal leads 23-15.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]