World No. 1 Novak Djokovic took care of No. 5 Rafael Nadal, 7-6 (5), 6-2, on Saturday afternoon at the BNP Paribas Open to clinch a spot in the tournament final against Milos Raonic in Indian Wells, California.
Djokovic has now won 13 straight sets and six straight matches against the Spaniard. Nadal's last win over Djokovic came in the 2014 French Open final.
He is also 25-23 against Nadal in his career and owns an 18-7 edge on hard courts.
Tennis TV on Twitter broke down all the big numbers from Saturday's semifinal:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
.@DjokerNole gets it done in straights against #Nadal despite 29 unforced errors. The numbers. #BNPPO16 #ATP https://t.co/Yt6gXOpjBo3/19/2016, 10:38:24 PM
Djokovic started off the first set in uncharacteristically sloppy fashion. After Nadal held serve to open the proceedings, Djokovic committed back-to-back double-faults and ceded his first service game to the Spaniard.
The world No. 1 ultimately broke back and evened the opening frame at 2-2, but Nadal hounded him with blistering serves that made it difficult for Djokovic to return with quality, as SB Nation's Andrew Jerell Jones observed:
Andrew Jerell Jones @sluggahjells
Djokovic, even if he takes this set, will not be pleased with his return this set, and as much of this tourney. Another cheap point given.3/19/2016, 9:19:47 PM
Nadal appeared to have his opponent on the ropes as he earned a shot at set point in the first stanza, but Djokovic remained stoic in the face of adversity and delivered three straight victorious points to stay alive.
The punch-counterpunch nature of the 70-minute first set came to a head in a tiebreak, which has been a rare sight for the two tennis titans of late, according to the tournament's official Twitter account:
BNP Paribas Open @BNPPARIBASOPEN
Tiebreak time 6️⃣-6️⃣ #Djokovic and #Nadal will decide the first in a breaker. Haven't played one since Montreal 2013 (11 matches) #BNPPO163/19/2016, 9:38:33 PM
Djokovic found his groove in the decisive moment and dispatched Nadal to continue an impressive streak, per ESPN Tennis:
Djokovic saves set point, wins 7-6(5) over Nadal. Djokovic has won 12 straight sets against Nadal, dating back to ’14 French Open. #BNPPO163/19/2016, 9:45:18 PM
Nadal pressed Djokovic throughout the second set in what amounted to a tactical showcase of the highest order, but the Serbian's strength appeared to overpower the world No. 5 as the match progressed.
Although both players held serve throughout the first five games of the second set, Djokovic eventually unnerved Nadal and took a 4-2 edge before closing the match out with another break to clinch a spot in Sunday's title showdown.
With the win in hand, Djokovic will square off against Raonic, who defeated David Goffin, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, in the day's first semifinal match.
According to ATPWorldTour.com, Djokovic is 5-0 against the Canadian—with four of those wins coming in 2014. The duo's last meeting came at the 2015 Australian Open, when Djokovic sent Raonic packing in the quarterfinals with a straight-sets victory.
Playing for his third title this year, Djokovic should be a prohibitive favorite when the action in Indian Wells comes to a close Sunday.
The tournament's official Twitter account posted video of Djokovic being greeted by several supportive fans:
BNP Paribas Open @BNPPARIBASOPEN
Watch Stadium 1 give @DjokerNole a champion's send off as he exits from court following a #BNPPO16 SF win #Djokovic https://t.co/YkSqqxuZke3/19/2016, 10:52:05 PM
"Life is not about playing against just one player," Nadal said, per BNP Paribas Open on Twitter. "If I play vs. him, it’s a semi or final. If I play against him, it’s great news."
"The game was very close," Nadal added, per BNP Paribas Open. "I played well. It was a positive week. That's the way I'm trying to follow."
Djokovic, meanwhile, explained how he was able to outwit such a strong opponent.
"I work hard to come up with the best game when needed," Djokovic said, per the tournament's Twitter account. "I'm glad to overcome this challenge."
Looking ahead, the world's top-ranked player indicated he won't take Raonic lightly when championship play gets underway.
"Milos is probably playing the best tennis that he's ever played," Djokovic added, per BNP Paribas Open on Twitter. "It's quite impressive. I need to neutralize his serve."
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