Although Roger's victory over Delpo came to be very routine, it did not start out that way. In the very first game of the match, Fed had to save two break points in a game that lasted over ten minutes. Surprisingly, this first game also ended up being the turning point of the match. At deuce, Roger hit an ace which was challenged by the Argentine. The ball was clearly out, but the hawkeye system was not working and therefore the original call stood, much to del Potro's dismay. From then on the wheels fell off and he started getting very unnerved about the incident. Roger broke in the very next game and held the rest of the way to a 6-3 first set. The second set was more of the same as Roger broke in the first game and continued dominating and took the set even easier than he did the first. 63 62 Federer in 69 minutes, an absolute masterclass. He hit 13 aces to Delpo's 0, and he was assertive from the baseline, moving the big man around the court and not giving him any time to set up his massive groundstrokes. He also made an effort to hit through his backhand, and used the drop shot very effectively. The Master nearly played the perfect match.
Overall it was a very routine match and probably should have been much closer, but del Potro lost all his focus and concentration in the first game after the hawkeye controversy. Federer is now 4-0 vs del Potro in 2012 and 5-0 since last summer, and has won the past 11 sets. In fact, Federer has won 69 games in that stretch to Delpo's 39. To say that Roger is completely comfortable playing del Potro is an understatement.
|Credit: Mike Blake/Reuters|
In the second semifinal of the day, Rafael Nadal barely escaped defeat against David Nalbandian. The Argentine won the first set 6-4 and gave Rafa the same kind of problems that Djokovic does. Unfortunately, Nalbandian does not have the same mental strength as the Serb, and lost the second set 7-5. He was two points from victory at 4-5 0-30 and probably should have won the match there, but Rafa fought out of it. He went on to win 4 straight games from 4-5 to 2-0 in the third set, and t looked all but over. Nadal got out to a quick 5-2 lead but then was broken. At 5-4, the veteran Argentine had two break points to even the match, but could not convert and the Spaniard pulled through win the dramatic comeback win. Overall, it was a shaky performance, definitely his worst of the week. However, he was playing a guy that was red-hot in Nalbandian and a guy that is structured to give Nadal problems. Rafa seems to struggle with guys who have two-handed backhands; Djokovic, Davydenko, Nalbandian, Murray, and del Potro among them. Overall, this match was the case of the better player losing.
On Thursday, Novak Djokovic eased by Nicolas Almagro 63 64. It was routine, however Djokovic still doesn't look to be as sharp as he was last year. Ever since Dubai he has appeared a little defensive and is not returning as well as we have grown accustomed to. His serve is as good as ever though, which is helping him without a doubt. In the night match, John Isner overcame the feisty Gilles Simon in three sets. It was a great win for Isner because Simon was returning a lot of his big serves and the big guy was being forced to play. Simon is as consistent as they come on the tour, and Isner did very well to stay focused on the task at hand each and every point.
Federer vs Nadal
We know that Nadal is the toughest match for Federer. We know that Indian Wells is a slow hardcourt that favours Nadal. We know that Roger can struggle against Rafa no matter what his previous form was. In all likelihood, Roger will lose to Rafa. But here are a few reasons why the Swiss may be able to pull off the win:
Familiarity: I'm not talking about the fact that Roger has played Rafa so many times, no. I am talking about the fact that Roger has already played a heavy-hitting lefty this week in Indian Wells. Thomaz Bellucci posed many of the same threats that Nadal will, albeit at a lesser efficiency. Still, the way Fed played the final two sets of that match is the same way he will need to play to beat Rafa. Having already played a lefty this week could help him.
Confidence: Sure, you might be saying right now "Federer had confidence in Australia and look what happened there." However, I am not talking about that kind of confidence. I am talking about match toughness. Since the Australian Open, Roger has played numerous tight matches where the outcome could have gone either way. Against Davydenko in Rotterdam. Against del Potro in Dubai. Against Raonic and Bellucci in Indian Wells. Federer knows that he can come through any tough situation he is placed in. He is not panicking right now, and he is playing very much within himself. Of course, Rafa is the toughest opponent for Fed, so having confidence in his abilities to come out of a dire situation could be crucial.
Best of 3: Rafael Nadal is one of the toughest players to beat over a 5-set match, and not just for Roger. But since this is Rafa and Roger we are talking about, a best of 3 match certainly makes it much easier for Fed to win. Take the recent Australian Open semi as an example. If that match was not best of 5, Fed probably would have won and he wouldn't have encountered the mental problems he sustained over the final three sets. In their past 6 best of 3 matches, Federer and Nadal have split it at 3 wins apiece.
I truly believe all three of these factors could hep Roger pull off a victory. He will need to serve very well, hit his backhand with authority, and take the chances that are given to him. Given the history of Federer/Nadal matches, Fed will have them. I know that you cannot base these matches off the match before, but Roger did look very sharp against Delpo and Rafa really struggled against Nalbandian. David does have advantages over Rafa that Roger does not, but nevertheless, if Roger senses any weakness that has carried over from that match, he will pounce. He also has the rest advantage, with playing the earlier quarterfinal and getting by it quickly, whereas Rafa was on court for over two hours.
I understand that Rafa is the heavy favourite here and he will probably find a way to win, but I have my confidence in Roger that he can win this one. The pieces are in place, and he just needs to go out and execute the gameplan - the same gameplan that he had in Australia.
Djokovic vs Isner
Djokovic is the heavy favourite here, but I think Isner will be his toughest match yet. As I mentioned previously, Novak hasn't been returning great this tournament and we all know Isner has an incredible serve both on first and second serves. The big American should also take belief in the fact that he overcame a guy that plays very similarly to Djokovic in Simon. At the very least, there are similarities in that Djokovic will likely get many returns into play like Simon did. Isner is very dangerous in that he can take over a match at any time when he is on his game, so Novak will have to be wary.
Hope to see two great semifinal matches!