Indian Wells | Federer and Del Potro claim final places
Two very contrasting semi-finals produced what many would declare a dream ‘final’ for this year’s Indian Wells’ climax, as Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro emerged for the title match of the first Masters 1000 event of the season.
For the best part of 90-minutes, Federer’s appearance in Sunday’s final looked unlikely as the defending champion struggled against a resurgent Borna Coric before claiming his place in the last two 5-7 6-4 6-4 while Del Potro cruised through against Milos Raonic 6-2 6-3.
And I got a bit lucky too of course. It was a good match and a tough one for him. Roger Federer
For Federer the win means he keeps his hopes of a record sixth Indian Wells title alive while DelPo is looking for his first title in the Californian desert having failed in 2013 when he lost to Rafa Nadal.
The records would favour the Swiss retaining his title seeing as he holds an 18-6 advantage over the Argentine though their most recent encounter was during the quarter-finals at last September’s US Open which went the way of DelPo who will also remember his victory over Federer for the 2009 US title before his career was blighted by persistent wrist injuries.
And if Federer wishes to avoid Del Potro reliving those memory, he will have to buckle down much earlier than he did against Coric who for the best part of their two-hour and 20-minute battle looked set to inflict his first defeat of the season!
A possible upset became apparent when the speedy Coric used his powerful strokes to concentrate on the Federer backhand and take the first set, the first lost by the Swiss in nine matches at Indian Wells.
Coric followed that up by breaking in the opening game of the second set much to the disbelief of the crowd which included Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Bill Gates.
Having worked his way to 7-5 4-2 lead, the possibility that he was on the way to a major win must have clouded Coric’s approach for with the crowd showing their partisanship, Federer bounced back to claim the next four games to level the match.
And while the 21-year-old Coric recovered some of his previous form, the momentum was now with the top seed who broke him to love to claim the decider and his allotted place in the final.
In the event it was Federer’s ability to work his way out of problems which swung the match his way despite playing below his usual standards. He slowed the game down forcing Coric to generate his own pace and was able to win the points that mattered but if the young Croat had been able to hold his nerve, it could have been another matter.
“Those 10 minutes when he was up a set and a break were tough for me to accept,” Federer said during an on-court interview. “I had to move on with it and say that I was just happy to stay in the game. Maybe he’s going to get a bit nervous and I think that’s exactly what happened,” he added.
“And I got a bit lucky too of course. It was a good match and a tough one for him.”
As it turned out Federer was able to improve his winning run to 17-0 for his best ever start to a season.
In comparison Del Potro’s victory over Canada’s Milos Raonic was a one-sided affair and certainly lacked the drama of the first semi-final
Raonic was unable to find an answer to the Argentine’s powerful serve and punishing forehand in a contest that lasted just 65-minutes.
The big Canadian was unable to create a break point, unlike DelPo who created five and converted four to take him to his 400th win on the ATP Tour.
Del Potro, who considered retiring during the years he was off suffering with his wrist problems, is now ranked 8 after making his welcome return to the tour last year.
“I’m healthy and that is the most important thing,” Del Potro said. “I get on every court with a smile. I’m playing free of pain and am enjoying playing tennis again. I didn’t expect to play at this level after all my surgeries but I’m here and I’m so happy.”
It was the 10th consecutive win for an in-form Argentine who arrived in Indian Wells having conquered Acapulco the previous week.