Federer Flies Into SF Clash Against Nadal
Roger Federer arrived on court for his BNP Paribas Open match on Friday to play his 83rd ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who was competing in his first. That experience proved enough for the Swiss, as Federer defeated Hurkacz 6-4, 6-4 to reach his 12th semi-final in Indian Wells, setting up a potential showdown against three-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last four.
"At this stage of the tournament, you have to bring your best game," Federer said. "I'm very excited to be in the semis here. Not that I didn't expect it, but it definitely went better than I thought it would."
On Federer’s first service point of the match, Hurkacz swung and missed on a second-serve return. While the 22-year-old Pole acquitted himself well, that set the tone for the Swiss’ workmanlike one-hour, 13-minute victory, in which Federer held all 10 of his service games. The 37-year-old has won 38 of his 39 service games at the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year.
Federer and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic hold the record for the most BNP Paribas Open titles, with five each. But Federer is now two matches from standing alone with six victories in the California desert. On 2 March, Federer became the second player in the Open Era to win 100 tour-level trophies, triumphing at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Federer had an earlier-than-usual wake-up call for the 11:00 a.m. match. He woke up at 7:00, practised at 8:30, had pasta for breakfast at 9:30 and then was ready to go for the quarter-final. Hurkacz by no means looked out of place on Stadium 1, holding his own from the baseline and showing no fear of the net against the Swiss. To start the third game of the match, Hurkacz even swooped to net and carved a perfect backhand volley that left Federer frozen in his tracks.
But Federer’s efficiency in his service games proved key. The Swiss faced two break points in the match, at 3-2 in the second set and as he served out the quarter-final. The 12-time Indian Wells semi-finalist responded to the first break chance against him with calm, rushing from the net back to the baseline when a lob went over his head, forcing Hurkacz to make a tough volley, before overwhelming the 22-year-old with a sharp cross-court forehand passing shot. At 6-4, 5-4, 30/40, Federer relied on a booming first serve out wide to get back on track.
The fourth seed broke in Hurkacz’s third service game of the first set and his second service game of the second set, with the Pole making forehand errors to concede the advantage on each occasion.
"I was trying to compete, to fight, and believe that I can do it. Roger was playing great in the crucial moments," Hurkacz said. "I had some small chances in the second set. But yeah, today was a great lesson for me."
Federer will next play second seed Nadal, who battled past World No. 13 Karen Khachanov in two tie-breaks. It will be the 39th clash in Federer and Nadal's FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Nadal leads 23-15) and their fourth match in Indian Wells (Federer leads 2-1).
Despite the loss, it was a breakthrough week for Hurkacz. Entering the tournament, the Polish No. 1 had not won a Masters 1000 match. But he defeated Donald Young, Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille, sixth seed Kei Nishikori and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
"Playing on such a huge stadium against Roger Federer, it's just something different," Hurkacz said. "The match wasn't one way throughout the whole match. So I mean, he was playing really, really well. But still, I had some small chances, so it also gives me motivation to work and to get there."
Did You Know?
This was Federer’s second tour-level match against a Polish opponent. Fittingly, the other clash also came in an ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final. Federer defeated Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets at the 2013 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.