A repeat of the Australian Open final is on the cards with Rafael Nadal heading for a round four clash with Roger Federer if both players win their third round matches. Federer plays Steve Johnson while Nadal faces Fernando Verdasco, a matchup that has been dominant by Nadal yet spurned a few classics over their 19 matches.
Nadal made it 0 for 2 in finals in 2017 after losing to an inspired Sam Querrey in straight sets in Acapulco. Nadal failed to convert any of his six break points in the 6-3 7-6 loss after looking impressive throughout the week in Mexico. He opened with a win over Guido Pella to start his quest for a third Indian Wells title but will be concerned about dropping serve twice the Argentinian, even if he broke serve five times himself. “I’m happy with the way I’m serving this year. I will be more happy today if I had some more free points – I need to take a few more. It was not enough today (free points on serve)” he said after.
Meanwhile, Verdasco made his first hard court final since 2011 in Dubai. Andy Murray would easily take the title in the end but it is a good sign for 33 year old coming into this match. He went the long way round in the first set of his 7-6 6-1 win over Pierre Hugues-Herbert, needing a tiebreak after failing to serve for the set successfully from a 5-4 *40-0 position. Nadal is likely to be far more punishing on such slipups as showcased by the 16-3 record in the head to head between the two. However, it is 2-2 in the last four (dating back to 2015) with Verdasco winning in Miami and Melbourne. The last meeting was last year at this very tournament, Nadal taking the match 6-0 7-6.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets