In a battle of two injured titans, Rafael Nadal has come away with a big win…
The 26-year-old Spanish tenista downed rival Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells to record the biggest win so far in his comeback to the ATP Tour.
The 29th meeting in one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history didn’t live up to the hype, as Federer struggled throughout Thursday night’s contest with a back injury that limited his normally fluid movement.
Nadal, the world No. 5, played aggressively from the get-go and earned his first break point with Federer serving at 2-2 in the first set. Although he missed out on that opportunity, Nadal converted another chance two games later and never looked back.
“I played a fantastic first set, in my opinion. The second set was strange,” Nadal said in the post-match press conference. “The second set, I think Roger didn’t fight as usual. He probably had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.”
“Both of us tried to play our best. I played much better than yesterday (a three-set victory Wednesday night over Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis). My movements today were much, much better than yesterday, so I’m very happy for that, especially after a long match yesterday, to be able to compete well the next day,” said Nadal.
Federer, meanwhile, said the injury was no worse than in his round-of-16 match Wednesday against countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, which he pulled out 7-5 in the third set.
“(It was the) same as against Stan. I mean, I could play,” Federer said. “I’m happy to be out there and able to compete. But it’s obviously a small issue.”
Nadal, who was forced to pull out of last year’s 2012 London Games and U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, started his comeback early last month at a small clay-court event in Viña de Mar, Chile, losing in the final there to Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos.
But he hasn’t lost a match since, winning two other Latin American clay-court events in Sao Paulo and Acapulco, Mexico, and making a smooth transition to hard courts with three match victories so far in Indian Wells.