INDIAN WELLS (USA), March 16: Rafael Nadal withstood the challenge of Russian Karen Khachanov to set up a blockbuster semifinal with Roger Federer at the ATP Indian Wells Masters Friday despite a flare-up of right knee trouble that required mid-match treatment.
World number two Nadal, the highest seed left in the draw after the early ouster of No. 1 Novak Djokovic, dominated both tiebreakers to beat the towering Russian 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2).
He booked a 39th career meeting with Federer, a five-time champion at Indian Wells who breezed past 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-4.
“Hopefully I will be ready for it,” said Nadal, who recovered an early break in the opening set and powered through the tiebreaker, but called for the trainer to have supportive tape applied below his right knee three games into the second.
“Of course my goal and my idea is to be ready for tomorrow,” he said. Although he wasn’t moving as well, Nadal gained the first break of the second set to lead 3-2, but was immediately broken himself.
He saved a set point in a fierce 10th game that went to deuce three times before Nadal held to make it 5-5. He couldn’t convert a break chance in the 11th game as they went to another tiebreaker which the Spaniard again controlled.
Federer said he might not feel quite the same tingle of anticipation as fans at the prospect of facing Nadal, but he acknowledged that their clashes always raise the stakes.
“If I play Rafa there’s extra energy in the building – there’s always a lot on the line,” said Federer, who added that so much time has passed since their last meeting that his own current five-match winning streak is of little significance.
“I don’t think those five matches matter that much, to be honest,” he said. – AFP