Saturday, March 19, 2016

Djokovic, Nadal to renew rivalry in BNP semifinals

   On its website, the ATP bills today's semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells as an "epic battle."
   Yes, Djokovic leads Nadal 24-23 in the longest-running men's rivalry in the Open era, which began in 1968.
   And yes, they've combined to win 25 Grand Slam and seven Indian Wells singles titles.
   But Djokovic has won the last five meetings against Nadal, without losing a set, and nine of the last 10. In their last three matches, Nadal has failed to win more than three games in a set. In their last meeting, Nadal won three games total in the hardcourt final in Doha in the first week of the year.
   Djokovic, the No. 1 seed in Indian Wells, advanced to the semis with a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) victory over No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on Friday. No. 4 Nadal dismissed No. 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-3.
   No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Canada will face No. 15 David Goffin of Belgium in today's first semifinal at 11 a.m. PDT, followed by Djokovic vs. Nadal. ESPN will televise both matches.
   The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Goffin is 1-0 against the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Raonic, having won 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors in Basel in 2014.
   Meanwhile, Serena Williams reached the Indian Wells final for the first time in 15 years. The top seed, who boycotted the tournament for 14 years after a racially charged incident in 2001, improved to 10-0 against No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-4, 7-6 (1) triumph.
   Williams will meet No. 13 seed Victoria Azarenka on Sunday at 11 a.m. (ESPN) in a matchup of past Indian Wells champions. Williams won the title in 1999 and 2001, and Azarenka took the crown in 2012.
   Azarenka beat No. 18 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-2 in Friday night's late semifinal.
   Williams is 17-3 with a five-match winning streak against Azarenka, a former world No. 1 who is returning to form after battling injuries.  
   No. 6 seeds Vasek Pospisil of Canada and Jack Sock of Lincoln, Neb., will try to win their second consecutive BNP doubles title when they face No. 7 seeds and reigning U.S. Open champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France today.
   Pospisil and Sock edged unseeded Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (no relation) 4-6, 6-3 [12-10]. Marc Lopez won the BNP doubles title with Nadal in 2010 and 2012.
   In today's women's doubles final, Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe will play Julia Goerges of Germany and Pliskova. Both teams are unseeded.
   Mattek-Sands has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, two women's (with Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic last year) and two mixed (with Horia Tecau of Romania in 2012 and Mike Bryan in 2015).
   Vandeweghe and Tecau reached the Australian Open mixed doubles final in January, losing to Elena Vesnina of Russia and Bruno Soares of Brazil.

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