After their quarter-final wins on Friday, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have set the 39th meeting in the desert and the Swiss was the favorite to grab the sixth consecutive triumph over a great rival, with Nadal hurting his knee again in a grueling battle against Karen Khachanov.
Right after the match, Nadal was unsure about how serious the injury was although he already announced he would probably skip the clash against Roger and the upcoming Miami Masters if the pain proved to be too serious. That's precisely what happened and the Spaniard was unable to step on the court and fight in the second semi-final in the desert (after Raonic and Thiem), sending Federer into his 49th Masters 1000 final, with both players standing one short of that elusive 50th title match at that level!
Nadal has been struggling to maintain a high level on hard court for years now, achieving some significant results but skipping the majority of events (just like in 2018), not wanting to risk anything with the clay season being just around the corner.
Indian Wells is only the third ATP tournament of the season for Rafa, not spending too much time on the court in Acapulco after that Nick Kyrgios loss but not feeling comfortable again and staying away from the action until Monte Carlo where he will try to defend the title.
Thus, Roger is a win away from securing the record-breaking sixth Indian Wells crown that would put him in front of Novak Djokovic who is on five, sharing the top spot with Roger. After winning the 100th ATP title in Dubai, Roger will have the opportunity to chase another one on Sunday and close the gap to Jimmy Connors who is the Open era leader with 109.
"No, nothing more than what you saw yesterday. As I said yesterday after the match, I felt that something happened in the knee and was not the moment to talk about that because remain 24 hours before the semifinal, and I wanted to try my best to be competitive today.
I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete, to play semifinals match of this event. For me, it is not about only today. It's about what means for me to have to pull out in a tournament that I love so much like this one, and in the semifinals after playing well during the whole tournament.
You can imagine that I can't be happy. Sometimes it is tough and can be frustrating for me to go through all this stuff. What I'm going to do is come back home and try to do a smooth transition to clay. Try to be 100% for the first event.
What I am going to do is come back home and try to do a smooth transition to clay. Try to be 100% for the first event. That is going to be Monte-Carlo for me. I am a tennis player, and to be a tennis player, I have to play on all the surfaces.
My goal is to play on all the surfaces. Another thing is to adjust my calendar to the way that I need. But that not means that I'm not going to play on the hard courts. I have this since long time ago. And that always reminds me, limit me to practice less the way that I want and to play less than I want.
And the week has been positive until yesterday. I feel competitive when I am healthy, and my goal is to be healthy in as many weeks as possible to keep playing and at the highest level possible and for the most important things.
So I'm just going to keep going, doing the things that work well for me and accepting that sometimes these issues can happen. So all the things that are in my hands I am doing well. The things that I can't control, I can't control.
I can't complain much, because I feel very fortunate for all the things that I did in this life and happened to me in the world of tennis. So it is normal that after all those things you go through, sad and tough moments, too, and that's it. Just keep going."