What had promises of another titanic Roger-Rafa showdown fizzled out Thursday night at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells as a back-from-injury Rafal Nadal bested an ailing Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2.
“You could see at least I could serve full basically, and that always gives you a direction,” said Federer, who struggled against a back injury from earlier in the event, but didn’t want to full elaborate “because I don’t like to undermine his performance, either.
“The longer the match went on, I realized I had to change up my game. I played differently than I was hoping to be able to. He got more comfortable as the match went on. Obviously, once I was down a set I knew it was going to be difficult. I’m happy to be out there and able to compete, but it’s obviously a small issue. That doesn’t work against guys like Rafa, obviously.”
It was the first time the pair had ever met in a tournament quarterfinal.
“The second set was strange,” Nadal said. “Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.”
Coming off an extended knee injury, Nadal weeks ago wasn’t sure he could hold up to the hardcourt rigor at Indian Wells.
“Two weeks ago I didn’t know if I can be here, and tomorrow I will be in semifinals here,” Nadal said. “But is a big surprise for me to have these results. I was able to practice just a little before the comeback. Important thing is be healthy. And if that happens and I’m able to practice as much as I can, as much as I want, probably that the comeback will be a little bit less difficult, no?”
Tennis Channel non-stop talker Justin Gimelstob made the observation that Federer with his injury could have easily pulled from the match, which would have meant three of the four matches scheduled would have been walkovers for Indian Wells fans.
In the semifinals Nadal will face No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, who ejected the last unseeded player from the draw, defeating South African Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4.
“I feel quite well on court, and especially I would say physically, because I already play quite a lot in the past couple of weeks,” said Berdych, who has yet to drop a set in the event. “So that’s the important sign for me, that I can be fit for the guys in the next rounds.”
Thursday was one of the biggest fails in WTA Tour history as there were two quarterfinal women’s matches scheduled — and neither was played as both matches ended in walkovers.
World No. 1 and defending champ Victoria Azarenka, who dropped hints that she was injured earlier in the week, pulled from her quarterfinal match with former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, citing an ankle injury she has been battling for weeks.
“I tried absolutely everything I could to do, but I have been advised by the doctor, by my own team, that it’s just a very, very high risk,” Azarenka said. “I mean, it’s already really painful, but it’s very high risk to make it much worse. It’s a right foot injury, and there is a big inflammation in both and tendinitis.”
Wozniacki will next face German Angie Kerber, who was also the beneficiary of a withdrawal Thursday when Sam Stosur pulled from her match, citing a calf injury.
“I hurt my right calf muscle in the last game of my match against Mona Barthel when I was serving for the match, so I don’t know if you can get any more unlucky than that,” Stosur said. “Yesterday I took the day off practice and only did treatment, probably iced it about 10 times. This morning I thought I would give it a shot, and tried to go out and warm up, and after about five minutes I knew that there was no chance I could play unfortunately.”
Friday night will see the women’s semifinals with Wozniacki vs. Kerber, and Maria Sharapova vs. Maria Kirilenko.
Friday afternoon will see the men play in Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Andy Murray vs. Juan Martin del Potro.
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