Federer, Nadal win to set up 39th career meeting
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — It’s Federer vs. Nadal again, only this time it’ll be in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open.
Neither Federer nor Nadal has dropped a set in four matches in the desert. Federer has been broken just once, while Nadal has dropped serve three times, twice against Khachanov.
Nadal, 32, stands in the way of Federer’s pursuit of a record sixth title at Indian Wells.
Still, the Swiss superstar was rooting for Nadal to advance against his 22-year-old opponent.
“Playing against young guys to eventually get to Rafa, that’s exciting,” said Federer, who also faced an opponent the same age as Khachanov.
Federer, 37, is on a five-matching winning streak against Nadal, who lost to him all four times they played in 2017, including the final time at the Shanghai Masters in October of that year.
“You look back at what I did well there, but you can’t just copy-paste and play exactly the same thing again,” said Federer, who trails 23-15 in the rivalry overall.
Nadal improved to 6-0 against Khachanov, although it was tougher and longer than Federer’s victory.
Nadal needed a medical timeout trailing 2-1 in the second set. He had a trainer apply tape just below his right knee. The trainer returned with Nadal leading 3-2 and worked on his knee again.
Nadal got broken in the next game. He trailed 6-5 before Khachanov’s forehand error forced the second tiebreaker, which Nadal dominated to close out the match that lasted just over two hours.
Federer believes Nadal is playing better than he did in losing the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic, who was upset earlier in the week.
“When Rafa is healthy, especially in a place like here in Indian Wells where he feels comfortable, he’s clearly very tough to play,” Federer said.
Against Hurkacz, Federer fought off two break points in the second set, including the final game, when he closed the match with a forehand winner off a short ball.
“Not that I didn’t expect it,” Federer said, “but it definitely went better than I thought it would.”
Hurkacz, a 22-year-old Pole, earned three-set upsets of No. 28 Lucas Pouille, No. 6 Kei Nishikori and No. 24 Denis Shapovalov to make his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal, against his childhood idol. Federer was playing in his 83rd at this level.
“Playing against him for the first time on the big stadium of a great crowd here was for sure different feeling,” Hurkacz said.
Federer won his 100th career title in Dubai recently, leaving him eight from tying Jimmy Connors’ record for most in the Open era. At 37, he became the oldest player to win a tour-level title since Marty Riessen won at Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1979 at the same age.
“I’m holding my serve comfortably. I’m in a good place mentally when I go into my service games,” Federer said. “It showed this week thus far, so I hope I can keep that up.”
Federer earned the only break of the first set in the fifth game. Trailing 3-2 in the second set, Hurkacz had a break point, but Federer closed the game with consecutive forehand winners and an ace.
Hurkacz aced Federer to trail 5-4. Federer netted back-to-back volleys to give Hurkacz hope and another break point. But he came up with a big serve to get to deuce. Hurkacz’s backhand down the line just missed to give Federer match point, and the Swiss superstar won with a forehand.
“Roger was playing great in the crucial moments. Today was a great lesson for me,” Hurkacz said. “I had some small chances, so also give me motivation to work and to get there sometime.”