Indian Wells R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Verdasco, Federer vs. Johnson

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are already just one round away from another installment of their rivalry. Standing in the way of that showdown on Tuesday at the Indian Wells Masters are Fernando Verdasco and Steve Johnson, respectively.

(5) Rafael Nadal vs. (26) Fernando Verdasco

Nadal and Verdasco will be squaring off for the 19th time in their careers when they meet in round three of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday. The head-to-head series stands at 15-3 in favor of Nadal, who avenged a 2016 first-round Australian Open loss by beating Verdasco 6-0, 7-6(9) at the same stage of this same Indian Wells event last season. As bad as the 15-3 deficit looks for Verdasco, the less heralded Spaniard is actually 3-2 in his last five matchups with Nadal dating back to the 2012 Madrid Masters.

This will be Nadal’s second consecutive all-lefty showdown, as he opened in the desert this past Sunday by defeating Guido Pella 6-3, 6-2. The world No. 6 is 13-3 this year with runner-up finishes at the Australian Open and in Acapulco. Speaking of runner-up finishes, Verdasco made a recent run to the Dubai title match–upsetting Roberto Bautista Agut and Gael Monfils in the process–before falling to Andy Murray. This fortnight’s 26th seed kicked off his Indian Wells campaign with a 7-6(5), 6-1 second-round defeat of Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Nadal’s three losses in 2017 have come at the hands of Milos Raonic, Roger Federer, and Sam Querrey–opponents who, when playing well, can take the match out of Nadal’s hands. Verdasco may have a huge forehand, but he cannot dictate play like the aforementioned trio.

Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 8 games or fewer

(24) Steve Johnson vs. (9) Roger Federer

Coming off a wild loss to Evgeny Donskoy in the Dubai second round, Federer cancelled a practice session in advance of his opening match on Sunday–thus setting off plenty of alarm bells. It turned out to be a whole lot of nothing, however, as the 35-year-old Swiss hammered Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1 in a mere 51 minutes. Federer’s 9-1 record this season is, of course, highlighted by his 18th career Grand Slam title Down Under.

Up next for the world No. 10 on Tuesday is a second-ever encounter with Johnson. Their only previous tilt came last summer at Wimbledon, where Federer cruised 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. Johnson almost failed to get another shot at the former world No. 1, but he managed to hold off Kevin Anderson 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) during second-round action on Sunday. The 27th-ranked American is a solid 11-5 in 2017 and coming off consecutive quarterfinal appearances in Memphis, Delray Beach, and Acapulco. Johnson will have a better chance in these conditions than he did on grass, but Federer should once again be able to dictate rallies and expose his opponent’s relatively weak backhand.

Pick: Federer in 2 losing 8 games or fewer

36 Comments on Indian Wells R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Verdasco, Federer vs. Johnson

  1. Rafa not too comfortable. Verdasco’s playing shit so not worried for now. I am worried about Federer though…

  2. Oh my God it is 35 degrees out there!!! spectators are burning lol. Must be very tough for the players too. I hope they make Fed-Rafa play in the day if that match takes place.

  3. Rafa is so much slower moving around the court these days, in terms of pure speed. It doesn’t help when he seems to be poorer in his anticipation skills too.

  4. I hope the effects of that illness have completely gone. Rafa needs to have full fitness to survive these conditions. Normally humid conditions bother him but this is too damn hot

  5. I think it will go to a third set. Rafa serving to stay in the set, well I can’t trust him there.

  6. What do you think of Rafa’s performance luckystar? It’s hard to tell. Such hot conditions, playing lefties…

    • His return games suddenly dip in quality in the second set, squanders away so many chances.

      Thank goodness he wins in straight sets. He has to play better in R4, R4 opponent not getting easy for him.

  7. Rafa playing quite poorly this second set. It seems that he just can’t string two good sets together these days. He must fight like mad in the second most of the time.

  8. So glad Rafa finished in 2 sets! It’s awfully hot out there snd I really admire these athletes playing under 50 degrees celsius…you did a good job, Rafa!

    Vamos Rafa!

  9. Rafa gets the blistering heat day match.

    Roger gets the cooler evening match.

    I’m sure they’ll get an evening match.

    Nothing new.

    The match will be on Rafa’s racquet but that may not be enough (given shaky play this week and Rafa on a two match losing streak to Fed).

    • I am not as sure now about Rafa beating Fed as I was before the tournament started. Rafa hasn’t looked that sharp and Fed looked aggressive in his match. One can’t always read too much into one or two matches, but I just don’t feel as confident about Rafa now. I want to see Fed and Johnson.

      I do not want Rafa losing twice in a row to Fed. I’d like to think that Rafa would be up for another go ’round with Fed.

    • Agree with hawks…Rafa playing under the heat, takes twice as much energy from Rafa while both Fed and Novak enjoying cool late afternoon and night matches makes big difference! I am so angry! They should each get one match at the heat instead of Rafa having to do it all the time…Rafa losing focus during the match may as well come from overheating..,how can he even think clearly under 120 fahrenheith…

  10. Stevie Johnson playing great so far…4-3 on serve

    Let’s wait for Fed to reach Rnd 4 and then we can discuss.

  11. Fed and Johnson both service extremely well! No breaks in the match yet at 5-5 in the second set. Fed hasn’t even faced a break point yet…

  12. Although something in my gut tells me that Rafa will get some revenge here, if Fed serves like he did against Johnson then Rafa could have a tough task ahead of him…

  13. As long as Rafa doesn’t play to Fed’s tempo, Rafa will have his chances to win. Can’t compare Johnson with Rafa, Johnson is quite poor in his returns and has nothing to trouble Fed.

    • Would never compare Johnson to Rafa… I just think that if Federer serves like he did today, it’s not written in stone that Rafa will beat him, even on a court that favors Rafa’s heavy topspin.

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