January’s battle Down Under is headed Wednesday to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells–a repeat of the match-up where Roger Federer won in dramatic fashion in 5 sets over Rafael Nadal. There will be no shrimp on the barbie when Nadal and Federer take Center Court on Wednesday at 5:00 pm (Pacific). Nadal knocked off fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5 earlier today, while Federer beat American Steve Johnson in straight sets to close out the day session today. It took each champion about an hour and a half to take down their opponent and set up tomorrow’s clash of the titans.
This is the 36th meeting of the two, with the Spaniard leading 23-12. Most of Nadal’s wins have come on the clay. In hard court match-ups, Federer’s Australian Open win in January propelled him to a 9-8 lead. So far this tournament, Federer has been playing with the precision of a watch from his homeland, while Nadal has moved his way into this 4th round match with the grace and intensity of a Flamenco dancer. Neither has dropped a set yet, but they’ve each only played two singles matches, receiving first round byes. No one expects a match of this caliber to occur in Round 4. Yet here we are, a repeat of the Australian Open final match-up occurring with both men having spent less than three hours in singles match play so far this tournament.
Australian Open Boomerang in Indian Wells
What also makes this special is the attitude of both of these giants of the sport. Throughout the week, in post-match news conferences, both men have expressed how happy they are at this stage of their careers to be winning. In a strange way, but maybe not so strange, they appreciate the game even more now than when they were younger.
When asked about playing his Mallorcan rival, Federer said: “I think he’s a player with a lot of possibilities. You know, he can play really deep in the court and really in the court, too, now. He’s really become a player that can do both. That’s–we don’t have that many guys on the tour that can actually do that.”
Nadal’s respect for his friend and rival is evident: “Yeah, he (Federer) has the talent to do very difficult things that looks easy, you know. He’s able to take the ball very early, serve and first shot. He create a lot of winners with that, two first shots, no? And then he’s able to take the ball always from inside, and he’s very quick going to the net. If you play short ball, then you know that he gonna go inside and gonna hit a winner, gonna play a shot that hit forehand or backhand, go to the net, and you are going to be in big trouble.”
So as the sun starts to set behind the Santa Rosa Mountains, Center Court will be the hottest place to be. Nadal and Federer in Round 4 of the BNP Paribas Open.