INDIAN WELLS, March 17, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
On Saturday, the day the men’s singles semi-finals were to be played at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the dreaded came to pass. Rafael Nadal, whose knee injury raised its ugly head again in his quarter-final clash against Karen Khachanov, decided not to risk aggravating it and withdrew from the tournament, before the first match of the day.
While Nadal giving a walkover to Roger Federer meant that the 39th chapter of their rivalry would have to wait, the other semi-final did not disappoint.
Considering that it then turned out to be the only men’s singles match played on the day, the semi-final between Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic was a slugfest befitting the occasion. At the end of two-and-a-half hours of play, the Austrian over-turned a 2-0 deficit in his head-to-head against Raonic to reach his first Masters 1000 final on hard courts with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 win.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 16. März 2019
Thiem’s win yet again underscored how he had slipped under the radar throughout the tournament despite having racked up solid wins along the way. In his semi-final, not only was Thiem unbroken for its entire duration, he also committed merely nine unforced errors to make a case for himself as a contender to win the title on Sunday.
“It’s always something special to play Roger and also something special to compete in Masters 1000 finals,” Thiem said, speaking about his upcoming final against Federer. “It’s only my third one. I have pretty bad stats in the finals, so I know it’s going to be very tough, but at the same time, I will give everything to hopefully win my first Masters title.”
Maybe he can, after all, he went ahead in their head-to-head in the initial days of their rivalry in 2016. But since then, a lot has changed for both players. Who will, then, come out on top on Sunday?