Indian Wells (California): Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, arguably the two greatest men’s tennis players of all time, have set up a dream semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open with straight-set victories.
In the day’s first quarter-final on Friday, Federer quickly seized control of his match against Hubert Hurkacz by breaking the 67th-ranked Pole’s serve in the fifth game, Efe news reported.
That was more than enough of a cushion for the fourth-ranked Swiss, who lost just five points on serve in the first set and did not face any break points.
Federer jumped out in front even earlier in the second set, breaking Hurkacz’s serve in the third game to put himself on the verge of victory.
The Pole, however, then started putting up more resistance on return and even had a pair of chances to get back on serve, but Federer snuffed out those opportunities and then clinched the match 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 13 minutes.
Despite the loss, Hurkacz enjoyed a breakthrough week in Indian Wells that included victories over 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille, world No. 7 Kei Nishikori and Canadian rising star Denis Shapovalov.
Federer, meanwhile, has followed up his title earlier this month in Dubai by cruising through the draw in the California desert, not having dropped a single set and losing his serve just once in four matches.
In the second quarter-final, Nadal gave the fans what they were hoping for when he withstood 17 aces from Russian Karen Khachanov and overcame pain in his right knee to win 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2).
Nadal went down an early break in the first set but fought back to even the contest in the sixth game thanks to some big hitting on return.
Khachanov later saved four set points courtesy of his potent first serve, but the Spaniard finally seized full control in the tiebreaker to clinch the first set.
The second set began with injury concerns for Nadal, who called for the trainer after the third game but then took control of the match by breaking the Russian for a 3-2 lead.
The Spaniard looked increasingly hobbled though as the set wore on, getting broken in the sixth game and then having to fend off a set point in the 10th game.
He managed, however, to force a second tiebreaker, which he also won with the loss of just two points.
The Nadal-Federer match will be the 39th between the two all-time greats and their ninth consecutive contest on hard courts.
Although the Spaniard enjoys a 23-15 career edge, Federer has won the last five matches.
The arch-rivals are the greatest men’s champions in terms of Grand Slam titles, with the 37-year-old Federer having won a record 20 and the 32-year-old Nadal having captured 17.
The Swiss has won five Indian Wells titles (sharing the record with Novak Djokovic), while Nadal has captured three.
The event is among a group of nine annual men’s tennis tournaments that rank just below the four major tournaments and the year-end championship in terms of ranking points and prestige.