Facing each other for the first time in Miami 2004, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have pushed each other to the limits in the years to come, battling for the most notable titles and leaving all the rivals far behind. That all changed in 2011 when Novak Djokovic took the throne from them, delivering one of the finest seasons in tennis history and hoping for more of the same in 2012 as well.
The Serb claimed the title at the Australian Open at the beginning of the new season and was the favorite in Indian Wells, together with Federer and Nadal, who were in the semi-final too. Out of nowhere, Isner prevailed over Novak and two great rivals were left to determine the other finalist in the 28th chapter of their rivalry.
A month and a half earlier, Rafa was the winner at the Australian Open, but it was a different outcome in Indian Wells, with Roger claiming a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 32 minutes for the tenth triumph over the Spaniard.
Roger struggled a bit against Milos Raonic and Thomaz Bellucci before finding the rhythm against Juan Martin del Potro, keeping that momentum against Rafa to march into the final. The Spaniard grabbed two breaks, but he needed more to stay competitive after a mediocre performance behind the initial shot, losing 46% of his games' points and suffering four breaks to propel Roger through.
Unlike most of their encounters, Federer found a way to overpower Nadal in the more extended rallies, firing almost 30 winners and 25 unforced errors to control the pace and keep the points on his racquet. On the other hand, Rafa barely hit ten winners and felt uncomfortable on the court, seeking the solution to turn the tables around but still losing in straight sets and propelling Federer into the first final in the desert in six years.
Facing two break points in the encounter's first game, Roger brought heavy weaponry to fend them off and bring it home with four straight winners.
Roger Federer toppled Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells 2012.
The Swiss stole Rafa's serve in the second game after a sharp winner at the net following some rock-solid backhands, which were always the key in his clashes with the Spaniard.
Nadal held at love in the fourth game and earned two break opportunities in the next, converting the first to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard and erase an early setback. The Swiss held at love in the seventh game after a service winner and grabbed a break following Nadal's backhand mistake to move in front and secure the opener with four winners in game nine for 6-3.
The windy conditions worked in Roger's favor, and the Swiss grabbed a break at love in the second set's third game, cementing the advantage with a forehand winner to open a 6-3, 3-1 gap. Flying over the court, Federer landed another forehand winner to create break chances in the fifth game, denied by Rafa, who clinched four straight points for a hold that kept him within one break deficit.
Pushing strong on the return, Roger seized that second break in game seven, serving for the victory in the next one before Rafa pulled one break back with a forehand crosscourt winner that prolonged his chances. The Spaniard held in the ninth game to force Federer to serve for the win, and the Swiss produced a match point before the rain halted the action in the worst possible moment for him.
Staying calm, Roger landed a service winner once they continued to seal the deal and advance into a long-awaited final in the desert.