Indian Wells R4 preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Federer

The bottom quarter of the BNP Paribas Open draw has already witnessed a showdown between rising stars Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev. Additionally, Novak Djokovic is playing Juan Martin Del Potro on Tuesday.

But if you think those matchups are intriguing, wait until Wednesday.

Even though this Masters 1000 has not yet even reached the quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will renew their illustrious rivalry on Wednesday evening in Indian Wells. A spot in the last eight will be at stake when the two all-time greats square off for the 36th time in their careers and for the second time this season. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 23-12, but Federer–of course–most recently triumphed 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in an epic Australian Open final two months ago. If the 35-year-old Swiss prevails once again, their hard-court history against each other will be tied up at nine wins apiece.

Neither player had any real trouble setting up a battle that was eagerly anticipated when the hard-to-believe Indian Wells draw was released almost exactly one week ago. Federer did not break serve a single time against Steve Johnson on Tuesday, but he cruised through two tiebreakers en route to a 7-6(3), 7-6(4) victory. The 18-time Grand Slam champion preceded that result by destroying Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1 in the second round. He is now 10-1 this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Evgeny Donskoy in a 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) Dubai thriller during which Federer squandered three match points, a 5-2 advantage in the third set, and a 5-1 lead in the final tiebreaker.

Nadal booked his spot in the last 16 this fortnight thanks to straight-set defeats of fellow left-handers Guido Pella and Fernando Verdasco. Thus the world No. 6 is bouncing back nicely from a surprising Acapulco final setback against an on-fire Sam Querrey, who had previously upset David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, and Nick Kyrgios in succession.

“Everything,” Nadal said with a smile when asked what makes Federer’s game so special. “Yeah, he has the talent to do very difficult things that looks easy. He’s able to take the ball very early–serve and first shot. He [creates] a lot of winners with the two first shots, no? And then he’s able to take the ball always from inside (the court), and he’s very quick going to the net. If you play short ball, then you know that he [is going to] hit a winner, gonna play [either a] forehand or backhand, go to the net, and you are going to be in big trouble.

“His backhand in Melbourne was one of the best days that I played against him.”

It is true that Federer’s backhand has been outstanding of late, but he also had the benefit in Melbourne of facing Nadal on what amounted to be a relative ice rink compared to Australian Opens of previous years. Those same conditions will not be on display in the California desert, where the courts are slow and the balls bounce high.

Longer rallies will likely be the story on Wednesday, and many of those baseline exchanges will see Nadal successfully employ the strategy that has worked so well for him against Federer in the past: heavy topspin forehands to the backhand side.

Pick: Nadal in 2

55 Comments on Indian Wells R4 preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Federer

  1. Miami Draw


    A Zverev










    M Zverev





    • So now it’s Fed’s turn to face Delpo! Djoko had it twice, poor soul. I can’t imagine Djoko having to face both Delpo and Kyrgios one after another at two consecutive tournaments, and have to face them in the early rounds!

      • This #GOAT2.0 will destroy this one dimensional #Delpo0.5.

        Hoping Nick will beat WLB to get to #GOAT2.0.

        Nick is no Cal Naughton Jr. and would make a better match of it than WLB at least but still likely lose.

        For that matter, here’s hoping that Sasha can take out the Western Pox AND WLB.

        Milos returning from injury shouldn’t be a threat for Rafa but babyGOAT be like lickin’ his chops at a do-over vs Rafa.

        • Yes, IMO two players most likely to stop Nadal from getting to the final are Dimitrov and Jack Sock. Of course Sock beat Dimi at IW, and he gave Roger a good fight in the second set. Rafa has handled him before (though Sock has taken a set each match), but Jack has really improved his consistency this year and the results show it.

  2. I honestly just don’t have faith in Fed in Miami compared to all the other hardcourt tournaments, but holy hell, could you imagine how crazy it would be to get Fed and Rafa AGAIN…. AND in the final to boot haha?? People might think I’m crazy, but I’m actually picking Rafa to win this title. I know he has a potentially tricky draw, but I really think he’s got a fire inside him going into Miami… I think he was really pissed that he got blown off the court by Fed, and I think he could be playing this tournament with a chip on his shoulder. I haven’t expected Rafa to win any tournament this season thus far at the start of each tournament (I did expect him to win AO and Acapulco once he was in the finals). But this time I’m picking Rafa to win his maiden Miami Masters title before it starts! Call me crazy, but I just have this feeling…

    • I am not that optimistic about Rafa’s chances. He has not looked that sharp since Acapulco. Dimi will be a tough opponent and there are both g servers lurking. I would like to think that Rafa was not happy with how he played against Fed. But Rafa is not a revenge minded person by nature. I don’t think that’s how he approaches his matches.

      I will support Rafa and hope for a good result. But I am not about to predict him winning in Miami.

      • I could definitely see Dimitrov being a potentially tough opponent for Rafa. However, this is a tournament that doesn’t typically favor the big servers quite as much as other places because the ball doesn’t bounce as high and the court/humid air make play quite slow. Grinders tend to do well at Miami (Djokovic, Murray, Agassi, Nadal even though he hasn’t won a final, etc.) Although it should be noted that Roddick won Miami twice, so it isn’t strictly for grinders. I guess I’m banking on the really big servers not being able to blast through Rafa as easily…

          • Yeah, I think it’s more the lower bounce factor that can help when facing the big servers in Miami. I remember watching the Agassi/Sampras Miami final in 1995 when they were both at their peak (or Agassi’s first peak), and the pundits were saying that even though Sampras had just beaten Agassi in the Indian Wells final, they expected Agassi to win this one because the wouldn’t “pop up” like in Indian Wells. And Agassi did end up winning. It obviously isn’t anti-big server because Sampras and Roddick both won there a couple times. But it does seem like grinding baseliners seem to do better there than the servers.

    • Why crazy?

      He’s made two hard court finals and is still No. 2 in the Race so that’s a solid pick.

      I agree about #GOAT2.0 that he won’t quite sustain his anti-aging performance or it’s simply Rafa’s turn to stop the bleeding and restore The Fedal Order once and for all.

      But if #GOAT2.0 wins another title????

      That would be insane!

      • Although I just don’t see Fed winning Miami, yes, it would be INSANE! I can definitively say right now that if Federer were to manage to win Miami, I will officially be picking him to get to #1 sometime this season. Obviously there’s no telling when Fed could get injured again or something, and we saw last season that someone can win AO, IW, and Miami and lose #1 ranking. I just don’t see Fed’s level dropping enough to not go deep in the majority of tournaments he plays this season. But if he doesn’t win Miami, as I suspect he won’t, I’m definitely not jumping on the #1 bandwagon yet…

        Pending really good clay season, I think Stan and Rafa are both contenders for #1 this season. Rafa especially needs to kick ass this clay season for me to believe he can get back to #1. And of course we never truly know when Murray and Djokovic could suddenly turn it on again… I’m very curious to see how those two do this clay season, obviously in addition to Rafa. I wouldn’t be surprised by Fed going deep in whatever clay he plays, but I personally do not expect him to win anything, no matter how great he’s been playing thus far.

        • I will be surprised if Fed goes deep in any clay event, or if he wins Miami. People tend to forget that he’s 35 now, not 25. He won IW rather comfortably because that Kyrgios kid withdrawn. I feel that if Fed had to play Kygrios at IW, chances were that he would then have a tougher time in the SF and F.

          Someone mentioned that last season, the player who won AO/IW/Miami, didnt get to no.1 (YE no.1); mind you, that player also won Madrid & RG & Canada too! So winning AO & IW won’t guarantee a no.1 ranking. Rafa in 2013 winning 10 titles still got to fight tooth and nail before getting to no.1 nearing end of season, and Rafa having a clean sweep of clay events during European clay season, in 2005 and 2006, still couldn’t make it to no.1.

          Talking about Fed becoming no.1 this season is premature, and don’t assume both Djoko and Murray or even Rafa won’t fight back come the clay season.

          • Yet he won AO at 35 last two matches going to five.

            When you doubt #GOAT2.0 will go deep at any clay tournament, define “deep”.

            • He made Rome final in 2015 and he’s playing at least as good now.

              My guess is that he’ll only play one lead up to RG.

            • Deep as in reaching the final, and don’t talk about 2015, it’s two years ago when Fed was 33 then and before he got his knee injured.

          • I hear what you’re saying, Lucky. The only reason I would have to pick Federer to get to #1 if he (however unlikely) manages to win the AO/IW/Miami triple is because he has almost always played extremely well in the 2nd half of the season. I just think that if he could play this well in the beginning of the season, his chances of getting to #1 would be so much higher because he is one of the greatest end of season players ever AND he has no points to defend… I’m not saying it would be a lock or anything. It’s just statistically likely that he could get to #1 when he’s not defending any points (except for Wimbledon) in all tournaments that he has to majorly fail in to not go deep in them. Sure, Djokovic could make a huge comeback and reach his previous form and win all those later-season tournaments that he also traditionally plays well at and keep Fed from getting to #1. But you have to admit that Fed AT LEAST would have a solid chance of getting to #1 if he managed to win AO/IW/Miami… I wouldn’t even think it was as much of a chance if he had done well in the 2nd half of the season last year. But the fact is that he didn’t even play 1 single tournament after Wimbledon, so I feel like it’s common sense that he would have a decent shot at getting to #1 at some point this season. Not even saying I think he will end the season #1. Simply saying he has a good shot of getting to #1 at some point. I actually think Rafa has a good shot at getting to #1 as well considering that he has made two finals, including a major final already!

            You know, Lucky, it’s totally ok to admit when a player you don’t like has a DECENT SHOT at getting to #1 without having to say your happy about it! 😉

            • Nothing to do with happy or not happy. I don’t go by my likes or dislikes. Rafa is my fav player but I’m not hesitant in criticizing him when he’s disappointing in his play where he shouldn’t be. I don’t like or dislike Fed, and I speak about these players based on their current form, the likelihood of it continuing based on how they usually played (in the past) to make my assessment, factoring in the current conditions (as in the field of play), injuries etc and etc.

              You said Fed would at some point become no.1, possible but unlikely. You said Fed usually did well in second half of season but that to me may not be enough for him to get to no.1, if he missed a chunk of the clay season. Also, Fed may not play or do well at Canada/Cincy back to back, so it’s likely that he may skip Canada.

              Murray has a good buffer at end of last season, and points would only drop off week by week. You also have to factor in the possibility of Djoko making amends to his relatively poor second half of last season.

              There’re Rafa and Stan too; both Rafa and Stan are doing well this early in the season and so if both do well on clay they both may surge ahead of Fed in the race. We also can’t lock in Fed for the Wimbledon title, for on grass the big server cum big hitters are the ones causing most problems -Cilic and Raonic last year remember? We may have Kygrios, Alex Zverev and Dimi joining them on grass as main competitors.

              I think Fed may skip some events at end of season, most likely Paris Masters after Basel, if he intends to win the WTF. I doubt becoming no.1 is Fed’s top priority anyway, even if Fed fanatics are talking about it almost non stop ever since he won AO. Some even talked about a calendar slam for Fed!

            • If lucky’s predictions beyond a 14-day forecast for #?2.0 had any correlation with reality, he wouldn’t have won any titles in last five years ?.

              Speaks to his greatness that he exceeds so many’s expectations.

  3. Some interesting match ups again in the draw for Miami. At least Novak avoids Delpo. Rafa could have a tough match with Dimi. Some big servers in his section of the draw. Zverev, Raonic.

  4. This has gotta be the first time that #WLB has been the No. 1 seed at a Masters.


  5. #GOAT2.0 should have no issues reaching the semis.

    Rafa has potential stumbling blocks of Dimitrov in the 3rd round and Darned Sock or Missile Bionic in the quarters.

    • I didn’t know Novak wasn’t in the draw for Miami. I had a medical emergency and haven’t been in the loop.


      Thanks for just making a good-natured joke about it and not at my expense. I would not normally talk about health issues, but there was a good reason I was out of it!

      I am glad that I will be able to watch Miami!

        • Mira Andi,

          I am out of the hospital as of yesterday. This is really not the place to talk about it. That should be on the non-tennis forum.

          It was serious. But I am going to be okay. I was very lucky. Things just got very real for me.

          Thank you so much for your concern! I don’t want to get emotional. But I am grateful for the people here and the great tennis chats. I am happy that This can participate!


    • Thanks lucky!

      It puts things in perspective. I will comment more in a day or two when I can be more coherent!

      But I am reading the thoughts, predictions and analysis with interest!

      • NNY,

        I know that we haven’t corresponded much, if at all, on here. But I’d like to send you some good vibes by telling you that I am picking your boy Rafa to win his maiden Miami title! 🙂

            • Kevin!!Buddy!…U SHOULD!!It’s fun!!…Oh!please,please join,Nny,rc,ToMMo and many more!..whether in jalep wildguess or TG group…your choice kevin…now,u have a chance to smack my head if u doing good in it Kevin!hehehe…can’t wait to see u there buddy!…u have to join the group first..any group you’re interested okay?And then make a pick….this is the link…


          • Thanks for the invite, Mira. 🙂 I will try to fill out a bracket this evening, when I’m done work!

        • Kevin,

          I read your posts all the time! I enjoy your thoughts!

          I am happy that you picked Rafa! I would love to see it happen!

          You are very kind! Just seeing Rafa play is all I need!

  6. Dimi is desperate to beat Rafa and he’s always taken a set or two off him. Australia was close, but hopefully, if they meet, Rafa will go up another gear. That’s the only fly in the ointment in Rafa’s draw.

        • What do you think Federe will be favourite to beat Nadal if they meet at Miami final this year? Considering Miami is waly sliwer than Indian Wells…

          • I personally think it could go either way if it happened. It would be hard for me to imagine Fed beating Rafa 3 times in one season before the clay season even starts, and 4 times in a row total. But then again I’ve been learning recently to not underestimate old-man Fed against Rafa… Rafa did destroy Fed in 2011 in Miami, but this is not the same Rafa, nor is it the same Fed… And I personally don’t take their 2004 and 2005 Miami matches into account because that might as well be a different generation it was so long ago. So me personally? I’m not willing to even make a call on that one until I see their form going into that match, if they both made the final.

            • I don’t know why single out Rafa’s recent woes vs #GOAT2.0.

              He’s undefeated this year vs Top 100 players.

  7. I don’t know if anyone listens to the “Tennis Connected” podcast, but both those dudes also picked Rafa to win his first Miami title…

    (Sidenote: I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever heard either of them correctly predict a single tournament since I’ve listened to them haha, so I guess maybe they aren’t the best example… I’m just glad to know I’m not the only person picking Rafa to win Miami!)

      • Nope. I’m sure they wouldn’t be surprised if he finished #1, but they’re not picking it to happen yet. Or at least if they do think it they don’t feel confident about it enough to share it.

Comments are closed.

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