Rafael Nadal withstood the challenge of Russian Karen Khachanov to set up a blockbuster semifinal with Roger Federer at the ATP Indian Wells Masters on Friday.
World No 2 Nadal, the highest seed left in the draw after the early ouster of No 1 Novak Djokovic, dominated both tiebreakers to beat the towering Russian 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2).
He booked a 39th career meeting with Federer, a five-time champion at Indian Wells who breezed past 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-4.
“Hopefully I will be ready for it,” said Nadal, who recovered an early break in the opening set and powered through the tiebreaker, but called for the trainer to have supportive tape applied below his right knee three games into the second.
“Of course my goal and my idea is to be ready for tomorrow,” he said.
Although he wasn’t moving as well, Nadal gained the first break of the second set to lead 3-2, but was immediately broken himself.
He saved a set point in a fierce 10th game that went to deuce three times before Nadal held to make it 5-5. He couldn’t convert a break chance in the 11th game as they went to another tiebreaker which the Spaniard again controlled.
Khachanov, who peppered Nadal with 17 aces in the two-hour, 17-minute match, has now lost all six of his career meetings with the Spaniard.
He’ll be gunning for a chance to claim a fourth Indian Wells title while Federer is seeking to break out of a tie with Djokovic with a record sixth.
Nadal leads the head-to-head rivalry with Federer 23-15, but the Swiss maestro has won 11 of their 20 hard-court meetings, including their last five.
However, they haven’t met since October of 2017, when Federer triumphed in straight sets in the final of the Shanghai Masters.