Ever since the draw of the 2019 Indian Wells Masters was released, the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal collision course was always going to be of immense interest to the the tennis world. Now that the projected semifinal has materialized, a 39th chapter will be written in their historic rivalry. But whilst those two gladiators of the game may attract the lion’s share of the attention, two others will also meet with ambitions of glory. Who will be the two men left standing?
Milos Raonic vs Dominic Thiem
Head-To-Head: Raonic 2-0 Thiem
Last meeting: 2016 ATP Finals (Raonic won 7-6 6-3)
This is a glorious opportunity for both Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem to earn a spot in the final of the first Masters event of the year. It was inevitable that confidence would reverberate in the top half of the draw once the top seed Novak Djokovic suffered a surprise defeat in the third round. Milos Raonic, a former finalist in Indian Wells, is desperate to cap off the fortnight with the biggest title of his career. He has been close on three occasions at this level but finished second best every time.
Following a succession of major injuries during the last couple of years which completely saw him fall down the rankings (as low as #38 at one point), the big serving Canadian has worked hard to return to the top of his game. Incidentally it was at this event, 12 months ago that was the turning point of his second coming with Raonic reaching the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Juan Martin Del Potro. He has started the 2019 season in excellent form beating the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open. He suffered a blip in February, but he has raised his level again in th e desert. The addition of Fabrice Santoro for a one-month trial as his new coach has helped add variety to his game, especially his backhand slice.
Dominic Thiem has been struggling for match wins this year. Not even a two week participation in South American clay court tournaments could help his cause. But he has smashed through the draw in Indian Wells, albeit benefiting from a walkover in the quarterfinals after Monfils was forced to withdraw. He may never have a better chance to make the final in the Californian desert.
Raonic leads the head-to-head but their last meeting came nearly two and half years ago. The Austrian is an accomplished top 10 player right now and warmed up for this meeting by playing Ivo Karlovic in fourth round who is not too dissimilar to Raonic. However, the Canadian does not rely solely on his serve. He can mix it up with a variety of backhand slices, and inside-in forehand which is his signature shot. As a result, expect the Canadian to march on into the final.
Prediction: Raonic in 3
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Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
Head-To-Head: Federer 15 – 23 Nadal
Last meeting: 2018 Shanghai Masters (Federer won 6-4 6-3)
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 39th time in their illustrious tennis careers. After dominating the rivalry for the best part of a decade, Rafael Nadal has seen the tables turned. Federer seems to have solved the Nadal puzzle and is on a five match winning streak against the Spaniard. That is, by far, the best run he has enjoyed against Nadal in his career.
The World #2 heroically saw off Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals despite some troubles with his knee which could cost him in this encounter. However, Nadal has been playing immense tennis this year. He has worked to calibrate his turbine-like topspin in the desert and the first set he played against the Russian involved some incredible hitting. But if his knee injury proves to be serious, he may not make to the court for this match. In fact the Spaniard said in his presser that the issue may not allow him to play. It could be massive let-down considering the buildup. Federer would have been a slight underdog had it not been the recurrence of Nadal’s injury, but with his great recent record and his rival injured, the favorite tag has definitely shifted to the Swiss. Expect him to claim his sixth win on the trot.
Prediction: Federer in 2
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