Los Angeles, 17 March 2019 (MIA/dpa) – Roger Federer will play Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the Indian Wells final following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Saturday’s semi-finals due to a right knee injury.
The Spanish world number two was forced out with the injury despite beating Russia’s Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2) in his previous match on Friday.
Austrian seventh seed Thiem, who played Nadal in last year’s French Open final, clinched his final spot with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 marathon victory over Canadian Milos Raonic after two hours and 31 minutes.
The opening set was dominated by serves but in the first tie-break, Thiem collected three straight points to build a 5-1 lead before moving in front.
Raonic evened the match by winning the second set tie-break, but Thiem finally earned the first break of the match in the final set to create a 4-2 gap.
The 25-year-old Thiem erased a break point at 5-4 before completing the match with a backhand volley to confirm his entry into a third Masters final.
He meets five-time Indian Wells champion Federer, who was looking forward to renewing his rivalry with Nadal.
The anticipated semi-final would have been the 39th contest between the two grand slam giants, where Nadal leads the head-to-head record 23-15, despite having lost five consecutive matches to the 37-year-old Federer.
“Sad we couldn’t face off in another epic matchup,” the Swiss champion said on Twitter. “Hopefully we have a few more to come. Get better soon Rafa. Fedal.”
“I wanted to try my best to be competitive today,” said Nadal.
“But I warmed up this morning and felt that my knee wasn’t good enough to compete at the needed level.”
The 17-time grand slam champion has struggled with knee injuries in the past that involved reports of tendinitis and retired with a similar knee complaint in the 2018 US Open semi-finals against Juan-Martin del Potro when he lost the first two sets.
“I have this (injury) since [a] long time ago. Some moments are better; some moments are worse,” added the 32-year-old.
“And always remind me, limit me to practice less the way that I want and to play less than I want.
“Still (it’s) tough because I felt more or less okay during this beginning of the season in terms of my knee. Yesterday I felt this on court. And the week have been positive until yesterday.
“So now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.”
The 11-time French Open champion aims to return for the clay season to prepare for the defence of his Roland Garros crown. The target he has in mind is the Monte Carlo Masters, which begins on April 14.
“I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo,” said Nadal.
“I need to check with my people what’s the best way to proceed now. It is a situation that we were not expecting at this point, so now we need to adjust a little bit with the calendar.”