A fourth round match this week, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was a slam final just a few months ago and lived up to the hype unlike many of their later meetings. The pair play for the 36th time in their careers but just the third time in three years.
After dismantling Stephane Robert in his opening match of the tournament, Federer had a slightly tougher time against one of the home favourites in Steve Johnson, winning 7-6 7-6. He avoided facing a single break point for the second match running but was unable to take any of his four opportunities in the second set, having to settle for another tiebreak. As expected for someone who doesn’t face a break point, Federer was especially dominant on his first serve winning 87% of points played on it.
Meanwhile, Nadal was also a straight sets winner in his last match against Fernando Verdasco. It was a controlled display from the fifth seed, winning 6-3 7-5. He dropped just 4 points on serve in the opening set while he was rarely troubled in the second too aside from a rare blip up an early break that saw Verdasco get back on serve.
This matchup was always hyped after their classic finals in the late 00s but often disappointed as both players got older. Including their classic Australian Open final this year, six of the last ten meetings ended in straight sets. Two of these were at Indian Wells with the winner of both the 2012 and 2013 meetings going on to win the whole tournament. It was Nadal who won in 2013 and he is the bookmakers choice to win with conditions favouring him much more than in Melbourne where the faster courts most certainly were to Federer’s liking. Indian Wells will play much slower and that should suit Nadal to a tee who should go on to make it 24-12 in the head to head.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets