Indian Wells, California: Rafael Nadal outlasted David Nalbandian 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open on Friday to set up a semifinal showdown against rival Roger Federer, a rematch of their Australian Open semifinal.
Federer had an easier time in his quarterfinal, beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2 in just more than an hour for his fourth victory over the Argentinian this year.
Nadal, ranked second in the world, handed third-ranked Federer one of his two losses since last year’s US Open when he beat the Swiss star in the Australian Open in January.
They will play Saturday, when rain and wind is forecast to move into the Coachella Valley, spoiling the sun and warm temperatures that have prevailed during the two-week tournament.
Federer improved to 37-2 with five titles since the US Open. His other loss came in Davis Cup against American John Isner, who advanced to the other semifinal against top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber were to play the first women’s semifinal at night, followed by second-ranked Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic.
Nadal hadn’t lost a set coming into the quarterfinals, but Nalbandian changed that right away. The Argentinian was full of confidence, having earlier taken out Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga — his first time beating two top-10 players at the same event since 2008. Nalbandian won the final three games to take the opening set.
The Argentinian led 4-3 and 5-4 in the second before Nadal reeled off the final three games to take the set, breaking Nalbandian in the 11th game on a double fault.
Nadal broke three times in the final set, including at love to go up 5-2. He had his first match point in the ninth game, but three consecutive errors helped Nalbandian close to 5-4.
Nadal faced two break points in the next game — the first when he netted an easy smash after being run all over the court. He saved the second after Nalbandian missed a drop shot, then smashed his racket and yelled.
The Spaniard closed it out on his second match point when Nalbandian’s backhand went wide.
The first game between Federer and Del Potro lasted 11 minutes. One of Federer’s first serves was called good by a line judge, although both he and Del Potro believed it was out. Del Potro wanted to challenge, but the Hawk Eye line calling system temporarily broke down when an Internet connection was lost and data couldn’t be provided.
As a result, the chair umpire supported the line judge’s original call and Federer held on his way to building a 3-0 lead, including the set’s only service break. Del Potro, who had two break points in the first game, argued to no avail.
“It was clear out and the machine doesn’t work,” he said. “But then the chair umpire told me he made a mistake … could be a big chance to me to change the way of the match in that game. After that I was not concentrating and Roger was playing better, taking all his opportunities.”
Federer has been fighting a cold during the two-week tournament, but it didn’t seem to affect him. He has seen the electronic system break down before.
“Crazy enough, when I played Rafa in Wimbledon, at 6-all in the fifth, Hawk Eye wasn’t available anymore because of the light. That was great for us to know. It wasn’t such an important match. Who cares?” he said sarcastically.
Federer broke Del Potro twice in the second set to race out to a 5-1 lead. He fired 13 aces in the match, while Del Potro’s first-serve percentage went from 76 percent in the first set to 50 percent in the second.
“I sort of expected myself to come out and play a good match today after the struggle I had against (Thomaz) Bellucci,” said Federer, who won that fourth-rounder in three sets. “I don’t usually struggle back to back days, so this was for me a really good match against a great player.”