Nadal Locks In Federer SF Clash At Indian Wells
A treasured rivalry will be renewed at the BNP Paribas Open after Rafael Nadal put his trademark grit on full display on Friday. The second seed dug deep to save a set point in the second set and prevailed in a high-quality quarter-final over 12th seed Karen Khachanov of Russia 7-6(2), 7-6(2).
“It’s not every day you get to play a quarter-final in Indian Wells, so I just tried to be focused and give my best,” said Nadal. “I’m just happy to be in the semi-finals. It’s a beautiful thing for me and I’m happy with the way I’ve played the whole event.”
Nadal will face Roger Federer on Saturday in semi-final action. The Spaniard leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 23-15, but Federer has won two of their three clashes in the desert. The Swiss star also leads their hard-court rivalry 11-9 and has won their past five matches on this surface.
“It’s different styles, different ways to understand the sport, and at the same time, two players with a good relationship after all the things that we went through in our careers and competing for the most important things,” said Nadal. “All these things always make the matches really special between us. It’s beautiful to have the chance to keep competing at the highest level in advanced rounds, in the most important events, at this late part of our tennis careers."
The Spaniard suffered from knee soreness in the second set against Khachanov, but said he still plans to take the court for Saturday's match.
“I love to play on hard, but my body doesn't love it that much… I am used to playing with some issues, so I just tried to be focused,” said Nadal. “Of course, my goal is to be ready for tomorrow…[but] I cannot guarantee how I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning.”
Nadal went into Friday’s match leading his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Khachanov 5-0 and having won 12 of their 13 sets played. But if anyone on Stadium 1 expected Khachanov to roll over, he proved them wrong with a backhand winner on the first point and an immediate break in the opening game.
The second seed showed visible frustration with his performance early on, but regrouped at 1-3 by winning 12 of the next 14 points. Nadal earned four set points on Khachanov’s serve at 4-5, but the Russian erased them with an ace, a pair of booming first serves and a volley winner. He then rifled a backhand volley winner and a mid-court backhand winner to escape with a hold.
The set went to a tie-break and Nadal, as he so often does, found another gear. He earned a mini-break with a forehand winner to lead 2/1 and converted his fifth set point at 6/2 with a solid smash to take the early advantage.
With Khachanov leading 2-1 in the second set, Nadal took a medical timeout for his right knee and showed visible discomfort. In a bid to preserve his knee, the Spaniard began playing more aggressively to shorten the rallies. The strategy worked as a forehand error from Khachanov gifted Nadal a break of serve to lead 3-2, but the Russian quickly regrouped to break Nadal in the next game.
Khachanov earned a set point on Nadal’s serve at 4-5, but pushed a half-volley wide. They once against went to a tie-break and it proved identical to the first set. Sensing the urgency of the moment, Nadal powered through six of the last seven points to prevail in two hours and 16 minutes.