Indian Wells Flashback: Rafael Nadal fails to arrange Roger Federer clash

Rafael Nadal lost to James Blake in the 2006 Indian Wells semi-final

by Jovica Ilic
Indian Wells Flashback: Rafael Nadal fails to arrange Roger Federer clash

Rafael Nadal could have set the 2006 Indian Wells final versus Roger Federer. However, the Spaniard fell to James Blake in the semi-final. Nadal skipped the end of 2005 and did not play the 2006 Australian Open due to a foot injury.

Rafa won Dubai over Roger Federer and wished for more in Indian Wells. Nadal got broken three times in the first four matches, playing well and hoping for more against Blake in the semi-final. It was an excellent chance for Rafa to arrange another meeting with Roger, who defeated Paradorn Srichaphan in the second semi-final.

However, Blake had other plans and beat Nadal 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 31 minutes to advance into the final. James ousted Rafa at the US Open last September and gathered the energy from the home crowd again in the desert to grab the second straight win over the Spaniard and reach his first Masters 1000 final.

The American played better on the first and second serve.

Rafael Nadal lost to James Blake in the 2006 Indian Wells semi-final.

He fended off five out of six break chances and stole Nadal's serve three times to propel himself into the title match in straight sets.

They had a similar number of winners. Despite hitting more unforced errors, James forced almost half as many mistakes as Rafa, staying aggressive and delivering one of the finest victories of his career. The American had the advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes.

He stayed in touch with the Spaniard in the more extended exchanges, enduring all the challenges to topple world no. 2 and remain on the title course. James held at 15 in the encounter's first game with a service winner and landed an ace in game three to stay in front and seek the opportunity on the return.

It came in game four when he forced an error from Nadal to open a 3-1 advantage, only to suffer a break in the next game to keep the youngster in contention. Nadal held at 15 in game six to level the score at 303 and created a break chance in the next one.

James denied it with a service winner and served well in the remaining games to keep the pressure on Rafa. The Spaniard failed to reach a tie break after getting broken in the 12th game. Thus, he handed the opener to his rival and had to work harder in set number two to make a turnaround and score a win.

They stayed neck and neck at the start of the second set before Blake faced four break points at 2-2. James overcame all the challenges and earned a crucial break at 4-3 when Rafa sent a backhand long. The American opened a 5-3 advantage and emerged at the top in style with four winners in game nine to arrange the title clash against world no. 1 Roger Federer.

Indian Wells Rafael Nadal Roger Federer