Indian Wells SF previews and predictions: Federer vs. Sock, Wawrinka vs. Carreno Busta

Two Swiss stars and two surprises make up the Indian Wells semifinal lineup on Saturday. Roger Federer is going up against Jack Sock, while Stan Wawrinka is facing first-time Masters 1000 semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

(17) Jack Sock vs. (9) Roger Federer

Federer and Sock will be squaring off for the third time in their careers and for the second time at the BNP Paribas Open when they battle for a spot in the title match on Saturday afternoon. Both of their previous encounters have gone Federer’s way; 6-3, 6-2 in the fourth round of this tournament in 2015 and 6-3, 6-4 later that season on the indoor hard courts of Basel. Sock’s 2015 Indian Wells run saw him win three straight matches from a set down, including one in a final-set tiebreaker. The 18th-ranked American has been up to similar tricks this time around: four consecutive three-set wins–including two after losing the first set–and one over Grigor Dimitrov in a third-set ‘breaker (he also beat Henri Laaksonen, Malek Jaziri, and Kei Nishikori).

If Sock is fatigued heading into this one, Federer is nothing of the sort. The 10th-ranked Swiss did not drop a set in defeats of Stephane Robert, Steve Johnson, and Rafael Nadal before getting a walkover from Nick Kyrgios on Friday. Federer is 11-1 this season and, of course, captured his 18th career major title at the Australian Open. A red-hot former world No. 1 combined with a weary opponent should result in something similar to what transpired between Federer and Sock two seasons ago in the desert.

Pick: Federer in 2

(21) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (3) Stan Wawrinka

They say it’s better to be lucky than good. Carreno Busta has been both in Indian Wells. No. 1 seed Andy Murray vacated the top quarter of the draw in the second round and that semifinal spot was wide open thereafter. Vasek Pospisil, who upset Murray, promptly fell to Dusan Lajovic in the last 32 before Carreno Busta took care of Lajovic to reach the quarterfinals. The 23rd-ranked Spaniard preceded that victory with a win over Peter Gojowyczk, got a walkover from Robert Bautista Agut, and eventually saved two match points in a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(4) quarterfinal triumph over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday. Carreno Busta is now 15-6 this season with a runner-up finish on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro.

Up next for the No. 21 seed on Saturday is a third career meeting with Wawrinka, who leads the head-to-head series 2-0. The third-seeded Swiss prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at the 2013 Oeiras event and again on clay via a 6-3, 6-1 decision last year in Geneva. Wawrinka survived two consecutive third-set tiebreakers to earn his place in this matchup; he outlasted Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) after the lucky loser twice failed to serve out the match, and he edged Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2) on Thursday night. The world No. 3, who ousted Palo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber in more routine fashion, is 11-3 this season with semifinal showings in Brisbane and Melbourne. Carreno Busta recently talked about his commitment to playing more aggressive tennis in 2017, but that is not something he will be able to do against an opponent who has an especially big advantage in the serve and backhand departments.

Pick: Wawrinka in 2

57 Comments on Indian Wells SF previews and predictions: Federer vs. Sock, Wawrinka vs. Carreno Busta

  1. If Fed going to win this tourney which I think he has the 60:40 chance, then the big question: is this season the weakest era of all times (WOAT) 😀 ?

  2. Sock played well vs Kei. The guy can come in to the net and hit some nice volleys, and can hit hard with spin and pace. Hopefully, he can play well enough to make it a bit competitive vs Fed.

    Fed in two tight sets or in three. Stan to beat PCB in three.

  3. Easy job for Maestro! He has been waiting for this.. Rafa with no confidence-read no solution on the court; Murray disappearing under pressure and Nole injured and on the downhill, the rest of the field have no continuity and can only shine from time to time…so it leaves rejuvenated and improved oldies like Fed ( and Misha Zverev 😀) to rule the field…well deserved though for all the novelties in Fed’s aggressive game…

  4. Fed over Sock in 2 (Fed had two days rest after playing a perfect match against Nadal while Sock had to fight very hard to escape against Dimitrov, Jaziri & Nishikori. I think he will be too much tired to worry the Maestro)
    PCB over Waw in 3 (bold, bold, bold, bold, bold. But i’ve really a feeling that an upset is possible here. PCB plays great tennis this year and Wawa had some bad loss. So why not ?)

  5. So who is going to stop Fed now? lol. Murray injured, Nole injured (and in a slump), rafa underconfident and no longer able to profit from his typical patterns against Fed.

    Fed’s backhand is very strong now. He can generate a lot more power even on high balls and he can control topspin shots of his forehands much better. He now feels very comfortable with his racket and feels no hesitation in pulling the trigger. He said in his interview that his coaches used to encourage him to go for more on his backhand but he never felt that comfortable. Now he feels comfortable.

    The new racket is really helping him. One can argue he could have used it earlier in his career but the older racket was ideal for his forehand , slices, drop shots and the overall ‘feel’. His instinctive game was more suited to those rackets.

    Players are so used to attacking his backhand. I think it’s time that he start mixing up the patterns a bit and attack the forehand a bit more.

    • Clay will be really interesting. Fed will surely be able to generate more power from his backhand. He was always struggled with that and players like Guga, Stan were able to generate real power from their backhands on clay even when your opponent is not giving you pace. Only Rafa’s forehand WITH CONSISTENTLY GOOD DEPTH, can suppress Fed. Sometimes, Rafa hits short forehands so that they get really high to Fed’s backhand (as Fed stands close to the baseline). That won’t work now unless rafa really gets the spot right and has loads of spin and some angle to keep fed pulled away a bit from the sideline.

  6. And some thought Sock would give #GOAT a better challenge than Rafa lol.

    Rafa’s the only one at IW to earn a BP against Him.

  7. I know that Stan has never beaten Fed on a hardcourt, but he DID win the only other Masters final they’ve contested… If Roger comes through against Sock, he will definitely be favored to beat Stan. But it would not surprise me in the least if Stan does what he always does in big FINALS- win, no matter if it’s Novak, Rafa, or Roger… I’m only half-kidding when I say that Stan may have only lost that one recent final to Zverev because the tournament wasn’t big enough haha! Time, and time, and time again we’ve seen Stan get to a big final against the top players with no reason for anyone to believe he would win said final, only to prove us wrong. So although I would have to put $ on Roger here because he’s is just playing so aggressively, so successfully, I would not be the LEAST bit surprised if Stan won… Also, if he were going to beat Roger on any hardcourt, I believe his best shot would be on the slow court of Indian Wells, in the final. That being said, it’s on Fed’s racquet I believe.

    If Sock somehow manages to turn it around and beat Fed [he just self serve in the seventh game of the 2nd set after saving break point(s)], I would have to pick Stan to beat him tomorrow.

  8. Saw the Rafa-Fed match again and it was really frustrating to see how inferior Rafa’s serve is. Fed gets so many free points and is able to set points up even on second serves! Rafa’s first serve is pretty average these days and the second serve (just like his hopeless backhand slice) has shown very little improvement in the last decade.

    Rafa can beat def beat Fed on clay. Whenever he was able to get some pop and depth on his shots in the IW match, he was able to have some success but he was really not having it his way. Rafa MUST realize the old patterns will NOT work the way they used to in the past. EVEN ON CLAY. He should treat this change in dynamics just like he treated the change in dynamics in his rivalry with Nole after 2011.

    • Exactly. If Rafa could play and serve like his 2013, I’m sure he’ll have his chances of beating this Fed. Nowadays, Rafa couldn’t serve anything above 120mph, his serves are either not difficult to return or worse still, easy to attack.

  9. Gosh Sock’s forehand is so heavy. You see, when he is able to hit them really heavy, Fed is still shanking and mistiming some balls! Rafa really needs to bring out his vintage forehand.

    Fed trying his best to stay away from Sock’s forehand and only attacks it when sock is on the defensive.

    • Sock not only has extremely RPMs on his forehand like Rafa, but he also has one of the fastest (mph) forehands in the game. At last year’s US Open, when they measured the average forehand speed of all the players, there were 5 guys who had the fastest forehand speed on average at that tournament- DelPo, Nishikori, Thiem, Kyle Edmund, and…… Jack Sock! That’s why his forehand is so good- because it’s so damn fast AND it has Rafa-like spin on it. So it’s basically like if Rafa hit with the same amount of spin, but hit it faster and less loopy.

      Maybe that’s what Rafa should try next time against Roger- go harder, flatter, and deeper to Fed’s forehand side perhaps? If they play on clay, I feel like Rafa should just stick with the formula that has gotten 13 out of 15 wins on clay against Roger, except maybe go less to Fed’s backhand IF Fed is hitting his backhand well on the clay. It could be that Rafa’s forehand on clay still bounces just a bit too high for Fed to consistently rip his backhand, but who knows?

      • No I don’t think so.

        He needs to get it deep and high to #GOAT’s BH with consistency.

        He didn’t do that consistently at all.

        Super racquet or no, Fed can’t step in so easily if Rafa keeps it deep and high consistently (1).

        He’s also missing his serve (2) and his FH DTL (3) and without those three things, he can’t beat #GOAT but this is not new.

        • Do you think that it might help him to do it more easily if they’re on clay? Maybe on clay Rafa will have more time to execute his big forehand swing? It could be harder for Roger to take time away from Rafa on the slow clay. Cuz while the bigger racquet head and coming over the backhand more are certainly factors, I personally believe that another big factor to Fed’s high level of play lately is him just playing more aggressively overall! Not only is he coming to the net more on average, but he also appears to be hitting the ball early even MORE consistently than before, and seems to be going for big shots more often and sooner in the rally than usual. And all of this seems to be compounded by this sense of confidence to play freely. He said it himself, that he hasn’t felt this confident to just play freely in a long time.

          So while there are certain factors we can look at that have probably contributed to this current high level of play, I think that the biggest factor here is that he FINALLY got a good old-fashioned case of “the F*CK IT’S”- and it’s paying off haha! And I believe that the only reason he didn’t win AT LEAST one of those 2 finals against Djokovic 2015 was strictly mental… In both of those tournaments, he was playing at an extremely high level (not unlike now) leading into the finals, only to shut down as soon at Novak was across the net. The US Open final he actually arguably choked because he had twenty-something break points and couldn’t win any of them hardly. But in the Wimbledon final, he just suddenly played shitty after having just played possibly his best match start to finish of his career against Murray. And then, when he was down 3-1 in the fifth set of AO against his nemesis, I believe that he FINALLY, and literally, just said “F*ck It!” to himself and started playing freely, and it payed off cuz he ended up playing one of the best 5-game stretches I’ve ever witnessed against a guy who thrives off those 5-setters.

          • Confidence is a huge part but some of that comes with different greats peaking at different times and it feeds on itself.

            Looks like it’s $GOAT’s turn again.

            And sure, Rafa when he’s on, just does everything a little better on clay, like Sampras on grass or Nole on hard and Fed indoors.

            RT @CarlBialik
            Federer Masters finals reached without dropping serve
            2017 IW
            2012, 2015 Cincy (W, W)
            2007 Madrid (L)
            2002 Miami (L)

  10. Sock playing better and Fed leaking some errors. All depends on Fed’s serve now. Sock is competing well from the baseline

  11. I have not seen Stan play this week but looks like he has improved?

    Stan can definitely give Fed a tough fight but beating Fed is a different thing.

    At least Stan’s both wings are capable of doing damage and he has a good serve. Sock’s backhand was a safe haven for Fed throughout.

    • Random side note for you, Hawks-

      I was just looking back at the Fed’s “player page” on here, to just before the AO. People were saying that Fed was “fat” (absurd considering the guy is a twig) and laughing saying he would never have a chance at Holman Cup, let alone the AO! Then you sort of defended him, saying you thought he would play into form. Then the part that made me laugh- “ratcliff10” said to you (paraphrased a bit), “I will laugh at you if you pick Fed to win the Australian Open! I can’t wait!” Even though Ratcliff10 was certainly justified in thinking Fed was a long shot to win it, it still made me smile to see how cocky they were about even the possibility of you picking Fed to win it. 🙂

      I certainly wouldn’t have bet a lot of $ on Fed winning the AO before it started, although I knew it was always a possibility. Anyone who has made the Semis or better in 7 of last 10 slams they played in, including 3 runner-ups, is going to have a shot at winning. On top of that, fed has shown before that when he has some time off he can come back and kick ass (i.e. Cincinnati 2015, where he hasn’t played since Wimbledon and then won the tournament without dropping serve or a set and beating Djoko and Murray).

      So, Ratcliff10, this is not at all meant to be a diss toward you, as most people didn’t think Fed would win the AO. It just made me laugh to see that comment you made given that Hawks did choose Fed to win. 🙂

      • Yup, I knew what he was capable especially with Rafa, Nole and Muzz having their own unknowns heading into 2017.

        So with that in mind, I should get more cred for saying Rafa’s not as far off as everyone makes him out to be and I don’t think he needs to drastically alter his game.

        Just came up against a red hot #GOAT.

        He’s No. 2 in the Race having made two HC finals, going into Miami (possibly as the only one of the Big Four) and clay just around the corner.

        Not so bad for a guy whose coming back from multiple injuries and severe anxiety over the last few years.

  12. Stan’s ROS is also a big issue against Fed. Against Nole you can get away with floater returns (stan often bunts his returns back even with his forehand) but Fed is far more aggressive. This is one big reason Stan is able to have more success against Nole and not so much against Fed. Stan must drive more returns. If he stays too back , Fed is ready for serve and volley.

    If stan can manage this , serve well and unleash the Stanimal he can do it. Fed must not be on fire though lol.

    Fed is the CLEAR favorite though.

          • I can tell you are, Benny. 🙂 Most people on here who are pro-Fed or pro-Rafa seem to be generally good about at least respecting the other guy’s game/achievements… There’s really only one person on here who very openly and unashamedly goes out of their way to troll one of them at every single opportunity, like they have some sort of personal vendetta against him or something… Nothing wrong with being competitive, but personally dissing and attacks generally just make people look jealous. Especially when Rafa and Roger have both set the standard for good sportsmanship, charity, hard work, and just generally being nice guys all around. They may not be 100% perfect, 100% of the time, but they’re not robots haha! Roger, Rafa, and Novak have always had, and will always have fans who, for whatever reason, seem to feel threatened by the success/achievements of one or two of the other guys, and trolling is their way of dealing with that. I’m glad to say that this site is largely kept civil from what I’ve seen.

            When all is said in done, those three guys will each have achieved incredible feats that are unique to each of them individually. They have different styles, different background stories, different strengths and weaknesses, etc. That’s what makes them so interesting to me. These three guys will likely go down as the three greatest players of modern tennis, and although their different peaks may or may not have coincided, we’ve had the privilege to have them play largely at the same time! And if you throw Murray, Stan, even Del Po in there…. we’ve been pretty damn lucky I’d say…

            • Well said Kevin.

              I thought Sampras was the GOAT and his records would stand a long time. Never did I think that there would be three guys a decade later that I would consider better than Pete. And that says a lot.

        • Don’t mind Augusta008 Kevin. She likes to tease Me. We really do love each other but we like to have some friendly banter. She’ll deny this but I know how she really feels.

          As far as legit or sarcastic goes, sometimes I can’t even tell LOL!

          Yeah, I’m a huge Rafan. Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate #GOAT’s tennis. What true tennis fan wouldn’t. I mean I’m a serious fan of his game, accomplishments, longevity and consistency. I’m in awe how he can play what I believe is as good or better than in his prime (most productive) years. He has a serious shot at No. 1 this year if he stays healthy.

          But he’s never been my favourite personally and I don’t know why. Maybe because he won almost everything before the Big Four and maybe because I didn’t want to see him break Sampras’ record (my previous favourite). I became a Rafan after I realized he was much more than a clay specialist and when he made tennis interesting again for me as I’ve loved tennis since the 70s.

          I don’t know what it is but tennis fans choose their favourites not only because of their tennis but also because of their personality and style and Rafa is it for me. But I’ve learned to enjoy all of the Big Four.

          I love Djokovic’s game at his best and appreciate that he’s not perfect but tries so hard to gain fans. I love it how he’s learned to channel the crowd being against him when he plays #GOAT. But I think it’s worn him down and he can’t sustain it anymore. He’s lost his love of the game and his drive. Jury’s out on whether he’ll get it back but I think he will.

          I’ve really started to enjoy Kyrgios too. Again, incredible unique talent but flawed personally. I’m enjoying watching him find his way.

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