Saturday, March 17, 2012

Desert duel: Nadal, Federer to meet at Indian Wells

   Oddly, it has never happened at Indian Wells.
   Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer today will meet for the 28th time but first in the Coachella Valley (ABC, 1 p.m.).
   In the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday, the second-seeded Nadal eked out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4  victory over unseeded David Nalbandian, and the third-seeded Federer dispatched No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2. Both Nalbandian and del Potro are Argentines who have undergone major operations in the last three years.
   Nadal and Federer will meet for the first time since the Spaniard's four-set victory in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January. Nadal has won the singles title at Indian Wells once (2009) and Federer three times (2004-06). The Palm Springs area is famous for its warm, sunny weather, but rain and wind are forecast for today.
   "Playing against Roger always means a little bit more than against the rest of the opponents because I am playing probably against the best of the history, and because I played probably the most important matches of my career against him and probably him against me," Nadal, who's 18-9 against Federer, told reporters. "That's why it makes the match a little bit more special than the rest.”
   Federer is 37-2 with five titles since the U.S. Open. His other loss came last month in first round of the Davis Cup in Switzerland against American John Isner, who will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic in today's other semifinal (ABC, 11 a.m. PDT).
  Sunday's women's final (ABC, 11 a.m. PDT) between top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and No. 2 Maria Sharapova also will be a 2012 Australian Open rematch. Azarenka, playing in her first Grand Slam singles final, crushed Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in Melbourne. Additionally, they met in the 2010 Bank of the West final at Stanford, with Azarenka winning 6-4, 6-1.
   Azarenka improved to 22-0 this year, the best start since Martina Hingis went 37-0 in 1997, with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over 18th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany. Sharapova, who underwent shoulder surgery in 2008, led 6-4, 0-1 when 15th-seeded Ana Ivanovic retired with a left hip injury in a matchup of former top-ranked players. 
  Nadal came within two points of losing against Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up who had hip surgery in 2009, while serving at 4-6, 4-5, 15-30. He held serve, Nalbandian double-faulted on break point in the next game, and Nadal was on his way.
   A controversy erupted in the first game of the Federer-del Potro match when a line judge called a Federer first serve good. Del Potro wanted to challenge the call, but the Hawk Eye electronic line-calling system wasn't working at the time, and the chair umpire wouldn't overrule.
  “It was clear out, and the machine doesn’t work,” del Potro said. “ ... Could be a big chance to me to change the way of the match in that game. After that, I was not concentrating.”
   Federer improved to 10-2 against del Potro, including straight-set victories in the Swiss maestro's last four tournaments this year. However, one of the losses came in the 2009 U.S. Open final. The right-handed Del Potro, 23, underwent right wrist surgery in 2010.
   Unseeded Isner and Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, knocked off second-seeded Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 6-4, 6-2 to reach today's men's doubles final. Isner and Querrey will meet unseeded Marc Lopez and Nadal, the 2010 Indian Wells champions.

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