After one more day of huge serves and topspin forehands in the desert daylight, pretty much everybody seemed to get what they wanted. The 39th match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The question is, will it really happen?
Federer, regardless of being the elder at 37, looks readier to thunder. Between Dubai and Indian Wells, he has won nine straight matches and 15 straight sets. He guilefully and uneventfully dispatched the unseeded Hubert Hurkacz, 6-4, 6-4, in the first quarterfinal of the BNP Paribas Open.
In any case, Nadal needed to dig deep to wriggle free of the firm grasp and an aggressive game of Karen Khachanov. He is the muscular young Russian who pushed him hard in the third round of a year ago’s US Open.
This time, Nadal won, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2). The win came after Khachanov stretched him more than once with tremendous serves and whipping forehands.
Nadal yet stays one of the best in-the-moment rivals in any game. Yet his ongoing record in hardcourt competitions is a downbeat reiteration of withdrawals, retirements and let-downs.
Whether he would feel hearty enough to play Saturday afternoon’s semifinal yet remains an open question. He doesn’t have a vacation day to recuperate. He likewise also has the rest of the 2019 season to consider.
“I cannot guarantee how I will feel when I wake up tomorrow,” he said. “But the desire to play a match like this against Federer is always very special, and it’s even more special if we’re both at a high level and at 100 percent. Hopefully it will be that way, above all for me but also for the fans on site and for fans in general. I hope I will be able to play aggressively. I need to be ready to react very quickly and to have everything in place to be able to succeed. If not, it will be very difficult.”