Can anyone stop Roger Federer?
It's beginning to look like the answer to that question is a firm no after the 36-year-old Swiss master defeated Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California.
Federer will meet Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the championship match Sunday. Del Potro was dominant in beating Canadian Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-3.
After losing the first set, Federer found himself down a break in the second set. He was not playing his best game, as Coric was able to return his best offensive shots. However, Federer altered his approach and simply tried to keep the ball in play.
Federer was down 4-2 when he was able to begin his comeback.
After Federer evened the match in the second set, both players had two breaks in the decisive set before Federer's steady play gave him the match. Federer won the last 11 points of the final set to put Coric away.
"I had to fight a little bit just to keep the ball in play," said Federer, per Richard Osborn of the tournament's website. "I tried not to do too much shot-making because it was difficult in the wind and Borna was incredibly steady. He was playing deep, with hard shots. It was tough to do anything."
Federer said that he enjoys tough and tight matches. "These are very important matches because there's a lot of fighting going on," Federer said in the post-match press conference (h/t ESPN). "It is important to show that you can handle the pressure of the moment and battle through and show off the grit that is needed to come out on top."
The victory was Federer's 17th straight since the start of the year., and he will have an opportunity to face his rival and good friend in del Potro.
Del Potro was able to break Raonic early in both sets to take charge and remove any doubt he might have felt when he took the court.
When ESPN's Brad Gilbert interviewed him post-match, Del Potro attributed those early breaks to "luck," as he complimented Raonic, but then he became a bit more analytical.
"I was able to hit my forehand and serve well, and those are my two best shots," del Potro said. "It was important to build an early advantage and keep it"
That's because he has to face the No. 1 player in the world in Federer in the Indian Wells championship match Sunday.
Federer has won 27 Masters finals in his career, while del Potro is appearing in his fourth final overall. Federer, who won the Australian Open earlier this year, has 20 Grand Slam titles to his credit.
Del Potro defeated Federer in the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open last year, but Federer followed that match with two victories over del Potro. Federer has an 18-6 lifetime edge over del Potro.
Federer and del Potro will meet after the women's title match between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Daria Kasatkina of Russia.
That championship match is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on ESPN, and Federer and del Potro will take the court after the women's final is decided.
Federer is undefeated this year and has a strong lifetime edge over del Potro. On the surface, Federer should be able to earn the victory.
However, Federer is 36 years old, and bouncing back the day after playing a tough semifinal may not be easy for him. Additionally, when the 29-year-old del Potro's serve is on, he is capable of dominating.
It would not be a shock to see del Potro win the first set, but Federer knows how to engage his opponent and figure out how to earn the victory.
Federer wins in three sets.