Rafael Nadal had to dig deep in the 2019 Indian Wells quarter-final. The Spaniard reached his tenth Indian Wells semi-final following a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Karen Khachanov in two hours and 17 minutes. Karen had pushed Rafa to the limits at the last year's US Open, and he repeated that in the desert before the better-ranked player toppled him for the sixth time in as many encounters.
Thus, Rafa set the 39th clash against his great rival Roger Federer in a battle for a place in the final. Nadal hit 25 winners and 16 unforced errors, and Khachanov followed that with 36 winners and 32 unforced errors. Karen built a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes, and Rafa erased that deficit in the mid-range and most extended rallies to emerge at the top and avoid a decider.
In the second set, the Spaniard received a medical timeout on his right knee and fended off a set point at 4-5 to seal the deal and hope for the best against Federer.
Rafael Nadal prevailed over Karen Khachanov in Indian Wells 2019.
Karen blasted 17 aces and fended off seven out of nine break points.
He kept the pressure on Rafa with two breaks from six opportunities and stood close in both sets. Khachanov fired up his strokes to break Rafa in the match's opening game. The Russian settled into a nice rhythm in the opening two service games before Nadal broke back at 2-3 after Karen's poor volley.
Khachanov had to dig deep at 4-5, fending off four set points with winners to extend the set and his chances. Rafa opened a 4-1 lead in the tie break with a volley winner at the net and sealed it 7-2 after an hour for a massive boost.
The rivals traded breaks in the second set's games five and six to stay neck and neck. Unlike the opener, Nadal faced an ultimate challenge at 4-5 after squandering four game points. The Spaniard saved a set point after the Russian's loose stroke at the net and held with a service winner to lock the result at 5-5.
Karen fended off a break point in game 11 with a lucky net cord winner and held after a forehand winner to open a 6-5 gap. Nadal introduced a tie break with a hold at 30 in game 12 and opened a 3-2 gap after forcing Khachanov's mistake.
A smash winner at the net pushed the Spaniard 5-2 in front, and he sealed the deal after Karen's forehand error in the ninth point for a place in the semis against Roger Federer.