Nadal wins again at Indian Wells, sets up Federer showdown
Indian Wells, California, Mar 17, 2012 (EFE via COMTEX) --
Spain's Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open with a hard-fought 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Argentina's David Nalbandian, a match that recalled their 2009 encounter at this same outdoor hard-court venue.
Three years ago, Nadal saved five match points here in a fourth-round, come-from-behind win over the Argentine and on Friday the Spaniard used all his patience and determination to turn around a match against a highly motivated opponent wielding big weapons in his serve and ground strokes.
The two players battled it out in an evenly contested first set, holding serve comfortably and hitting out aggressively from the back of the court with forehands and backhands that pushed the other player sideline to sideline.
Nalbandian, a former world No. 3, relied on his strong backhand to give him the slight edge in the early going, although it was a powerful forehand that gave the Argentine the first break of serve of the match and the first set in the 10th game.
The 30-year-old Argentine, now ranked No. 74, tried to ride that momentum to an early break in the second set, but the gritty world No. 2 managed to save two break points in the second game to even the set at 1-1.
Even so, Nalbandian continued his strong play on serve for most of the second set and refused to give the Spaniard the slightest opening, while Nadal, who is playing his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final in late January, showed signs of rust with some poorly struck backhands.
But serving down 4-5, Nadal stiffened his resolve when it mattered most and began playing his best tennis of the match, reeling off three straight games to even the contest and then jumping out to a 5-2 lead in the final set with aggressive play from the baseline off both sides.
The Spaniard seemed to have the match in his pocket, but then his level suddenly dropped and he failed to capitalize on his first chance to serve out the match.
After Nalbandian saved a match point in the next game with a strong serve, Nadal found himself in trouble once again at 5-4, 15-40.
But the world No. 2 was able to work the game back to deuce, first benefiting from a drop shot error from the Argentine and then playing an aggressive point that ended in an overhead winner.
Finally, the Spaniard executed a forehand drop shot winner to close out the match in two hours and 39 minutes against a dejected Nalbandian, who could only rue his missed opportunities.
"Couple of mistakes by him, and I played a good game at 6-5 to close the second set," Nadal said in the post-match press conference. "It was a change. I think I started the third well. He looked a little bit more tired, but the end of the match was close again. With the 5-4 and 15-40 the match was there, very close, and anything can happen."
With the win, Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the Indian Wells event for the seventh-straight year and set up a mouth-watering contest Saturday afternoon against arch-rival Roger Federer of Switzerland.
Nadal holds a career 18-9 record against the Swiss great, although each player has won 5 matches apiece on hard courts.
Saturday's match will be their first-ever meeting at Indian Wells.
The other semifinal will pit world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia against big-serving American John Isner.
The BNP Paribas Open is one of the tennis season's nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, which rank only below the four Grand Slam tournaments and the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in terms of ranking points and prestige. EFE
[ Back To SIP Trunking Home's Homepage ]