Indian Wells | Federer to face Thiem as Nadal withdraws
The big showdown between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer at the Indian Wells Masters for a place in the final proved to be a ‘big letdown’ as the Swiss was to say on learning the news that the Spaniard was withdrawing with a knee injury.
For me, it is not about today only. It’s about what it means for me to have to pull out in a tournament that I love so much like this one, and in the semi-finals after playing well during the whole tournament. You can imagine that I can’t be happy. Rafa Nadal
“I warmed up today and I felt that my knee was not good to compete at the level I needed to compete in semi-final,” Spain’s Nadal explained in a statement. “It’s tough for me to accept all these things that I’m going through in my career.”
In turn Federer commented: “I am obviously excited to be in the finals, but not this way,” said the 37-year-old bidding for a record sixth title in the Californian desert. “We’ve had so many epic battles and I know now that every one we have could be our last. Was this our last chance? I hope not.”
That meeting would have been their 39th in what has proved a long rivalry over the past decade but having made the final on a walkover, Federer now has the chance of gaining his 101st career title and edge even closer to Jimmy Connors’ record of 109.
The odds are not necessarily in his favour as he faces the Austrian Dominic Thiem, the seventh seed, who holds wins against the Swiss having beaten him twice in their four previous meetings.
In what proved to be the only semi-final action of the day, Thiem, after two-hours and 31-miutes, beat the big serving Canadian, Milos Raonic 7-6(3) 6-7(3) 6-4 saving the lone break point he faced when serving for the match at 5-4.
It is Thiem’s third Masters final and he is hoping that it will be third time lucky for him.
He recently signed up a new coach, the former Chilean star Nicolas Massu who has helped him build the confidence he has shown during the week at Indian Wells, firing 25 winners and making very few unforced errors – none in the deciding set!
“It’s always something special to play Roger and also something special to compete in Masters 1000 finals,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s only my third one. I have pretty bad stats in the finals, so I know it’s going to be very tough, but at the same time, I will give everything to hopefully win my first title.”
But it was the news of Nadal’s withdrawal which attracted the most attention with the world No.2 saying he would be returning to Mallorca having now also withdrawn from the Miami Masters but hopes to return to the tour for the Monte Carlo Masters and the start of the clay court season.
It was just the fifth time in Nadal’s career that he has conceded a walkover, and the first to Federer.
The knee, which has given him trouble for much of his career, had begun to bother Nadal last Friday during the second set of his quarter-final victory over Karen Khachanov.
“For me, it is not about today only,” said the Mallorcan, who had not dropped a set in reaching the semi-finals. “It’s about what it means for me to have to pull out in a tournament that I love so much like this one, and in the semi-finals after playing well during the whole tournament. You can imagine that I can’t be happy.”