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Rafael Nadal Beats Karen Khachanov, Will Face Roger Federer in Indian Wells SF

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2019

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, keeps his eyes on the ball as he hits a return to Karen Khachanov, of Russia, at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Friday, March 15, 2019, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Rafael Nadal will face Roger Federer in the semi-final of the 2019 Indian Wells Masters after beating Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) in the last eight in California on Friday.

Nadal overcame a knee problem to outlast an opponent 10 years his junior whose game gave him trouble across two marathon-length sets.

The Spaniard, who has won this tournament three times previously, will attempt to stop Federer's bid to capture a record sixth title when the two resume their rivalry Saturday.

Khachanov raced into a 2-0 lead in the opening set thanks largely to breaking Nadal's serve.

Josรฉ Morgado @josemorgado

Nadal faced one break points in his first three matches in Indian Wells. 0-40 down in the first game.

A Nadal hold got the Spaniard back in the set, albeit not without a few more problems for the 32-year-old:

Live Tennis @livetennis

A DF for 30-30 - #Nadal's second of the match - earns a sharp shout of frustration from the Spaniard. But he serves cleverly to #Khachanov's body for 40-30 & holds to get on the board as the Russian nets a backhand. 1-2. https://t.co/UOLNzi0vSX

Both players stayed strong on serve to forge a 3-3 tie. They each also worked well at the net, trading a series of quality backhands and slyly improvised hits.

The similarities in the form and range of shots of both players was not lost on Christopher Clarey of theย New York Times:

Christopher Clarey @christophclarey

Nadal playing Khachanov on a hard court feels like the closest thing to Nadal playing Nadal on a hard court. Or at least a mirror image https://t.co/0uL9RL7fQe

Things continued in like-for-like fashion as a break from Khachanov evened the set at four games apiece. Nadal served to 5-4 and had seemed to have Khachanov reeling for the first time.

It was time for Nadal to turn on the style:

Tennis TV @TennisTV

Not a lot you can do about that ๐Ÿ’ฅ #BNPPO19 @RafaelNadal https://t.co/kb0jNiV7kA

A double-fault appeared to wreck Kahachanov's chances to hold with the set at stake. The Russian eventually stood firm, though, something both men repeated as the set inched toward what felt like an inevitable tiebreak.

Nadal survived it to put himself in a commanding position, even if Khachanov had proved he wasn't going to make it easy for his decorated opponent.

It was 2-2 in the second set after Nadal needed the trainer to tape his right knee.

Tennis TV @TennisTV

Warrior ๐Ÿค• @RafaelNadal back on court after receiving treatment to his knee #BNPPO19 https://t.co/7W3N2zKdJW

Nadal tried to seize control of the set by earning a break point, but Khachanov responded in kind for 3-3. The 22-year-old was now the one applying the pressure, with Nadal being forced to save several break points to even things at 5-5.

Despite being hobbled, Nadal clung onto his serve to push the set to another tiebreak. The illustrious veteran dominated the tiebreak, setting up four match points before getting over the line to complete a gutsy and clutch display.

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