Nadal vs. Federer: Their History In Indian Wells
Federer has won two of the pair’s three meetings in Indian Wells, but three-time champion Nadal will try to even their rivalry in the desert. ATPTour.com looks back on the pair's first three clashes in the desert:
2012 Semi-finals: Federer def. Nadal 6-3, 6-4
For the first time since 2003, Federer arrived in Indian Wells outside the Top 2 of the ATP Rankings. In 2011, the Swiss did not capture a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002. And less than two months before this match, Nadal defeated Federer in the Australian Open semi-finals. The pressure was on for Federer to earn a big win.
Federer got off to a perfect start in their BNP Paribas Open semi-final, storming to a 3-0 lead to set the tone for the match. While Nadal battled hard, the Swiss was too strong on the day, breaking the World No. 2’s serve four times to advance to the final.
“I felt good about my game. I guess I had a no‑lose mentality,” Federer said. “I've not felt great this week. I didn't expect myself to play so well tonight, and this is sometimes when you can pull off the biggest wins of your career. That's why I'm happy I gave myself a chance this week.”
Federer lost a set in the third round against 21-year-old Milos Raonic and another in the fourth round against Thomaz Bellucci. But he was able to summon his best tennis against Nadal to triumph after after one hour and 32 minutes on a windy day.
“He played fantastic. His serve was with high percentage, and I wasn't able to play my usual tactics against him with those conditions,” Nadal said. “I tried, fought until the last ball. I lost against a player who played better than me this afternoon.”
Federer had not lifted the Indian Wells trophy since capturing his third straight in 2006. But the Swiss went on to defeat home favourite John Isner in the final to win his fourth of five titles in the desert.
2013 Quarter-finals: Nadal def. Federer 6-4, 6-2
After the pair’s 2012 semi-final in Indian Wells, the legends did not meet again until the next year’s BNP Paribas Open. That was in part due to Nadal not competing after his second-round loss at Wimbledon because of knee tendinitis.
Nadal, who began 2013 in February by playing three clay-court events, won 12 of 13 matches leading into Indian Wells. And while it was his first hard-court tournament of the year, you wouldn’t have known by watching him play, squeaking by Ernests Gulbis in a three-set thriller that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours to reach the quarter-finals against Federer.
The World No. 5 feasted on the Swiss’ second serve, winning 70 per cent of those points. Nadal earned 11 break points, converting four times.
“Two weeks ago I didn't know if I can be here, and tomorrow I will be in semi-finals,” Nadal said. “A lot of positive energy, and [I’m] very happy.”
Federer struggled a bit with a back injury, so Nadal knew winning the first set would be key. The Swiss dismissed two set points on his own serve at 3-5, before Nadal held to close out the opener, and that was all the momentum he needed.
“I played a fantastic first set,” Nadal said. “The first set was a good match, my opinion. Both of us tried to play our best. I played much better than yesterday. My movements today were much, much better than what it used to be yesterday, so [I’m] very happy for that."
That victory served as a springboard for Nadal, who would go on to beat Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro to lift his third Indian Wells trophy. Nadal won 10 tour-level titles in 2013, the second-most in his career, and he would also return to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.
2017 Fourth Round: Federer def. Nadal 6-2, 6-3
Federer and Nadal had not met in more than a year when they clashed in the 2017 Australian Open final, a five-set classic that saw 17th seed Federer return to Grand Slam glory.
Yet less than two months later, they were across the net from one another for the third time in Indian Wells, meeting in the fourth round. It was the first time they had played before the quarter-finals of any event since their first FedEx ATP Head2Head match 13 years earlier in the third round in Miami.
While their Melbourne battle was a nail-biter, Federer was in control from the start in Indian Wells. The 35-year-old was aggressive — hitting over his backhand with authority — to keep Nadal on the back foot. A tremendous backhand return winner gave him the double-break in the first set, eventually finishing the opener in just 34 minutes.
“It was all about coming out and trying to play the way I did in Australia. I didn't think it was going to be that possible, to be quite honest, because the court is more jumpy here or more rough, so it's hard to put the ball away,” Federer said. “Once I got the break in the second set, obviously you had to be very careful you didn't get down double-break. I was able to hold my serve, and he couldn't find a way how to get into my service games more frequently. Next thing you know, it's all over. It was a really good performance by me.”