INDIAN WELLS: It’s Federer vs Nadal again, only this time it’ll be in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open.

Roger Federer beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-4 and Rafael Nadal got by Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) on Friday to set up the old rivals’ 39th career meeting and first in 16 months.

Neither Federer nor Nadal has dropped a set in four matches in the desert. Federer has been broken just once, while Nadal has dropped serve three times, twice against Khachanov.

Nadal stands in the way of Federer’s pursuit of a record sixth title at Indian Wells.

Still, the Swiss superstar was rooting for Nadal to advance against his 22-year-old opponent.

“Playing against young guys to eventually get to Rafa, that’s exciting,” said Federer, who also faced an opponent the same age as Khachanov.

Nadal’s right knee flared up in the second set for the first time during the tournament. He called for a trainer who applied tape just below the knee. The trainer returned again with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second set.

“My goal and my idea is be ready for tomorrow,” Nadal said. “I cannot guarantee how I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning.”

Knee problems have dogged the 32-year-old Spaniard in recent years, and they cut short his 2018 season after the US Open in September.

“I love to play on hard [courts], but probably my body doesn’t love it that much,” Nadal said. “As I say before, is not only about today, is about tomorrow. Maybe we’re going to pay the price at the age of 45 or something. That will be not nice. When I see some old legends walking around the tour, is tough to see.”

Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu rallied past No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, winning on her fourth match point to reach the biggest final of her young career. Andreescu became the first wild-card to reach the Indian Wells final.

Andreescu will play two-time major champion Angelique Kerber, who ended 23rd-seeded Belinda Bencic’s run of upsets with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

The 18-year-old Canadian’s run is reminiscent of Naomi Osaka’s path to last year’s title. Little-known at the time, Osaka used her Indian Wells victory as a launching pad to beating Serena Williams for the US Open title and winning the Australian Open while becoming the world’s top-ranked player.

Svitolina had three break chances in the final game, but couldn’t convert. The Ukrainian also was bothered by her inflamed right knee.

Federer is on a five-matching winning streak against Nadal, who lost to him all four times they played in 2017, including the last time at the Shanghai Masters in October of that year.

“You look back at what I did well there, but you can’t just copy-paste and play exactly the same thing again,” Federer said.

The other semi-final pairs Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem.

Nadal improved to 6-0 against Khachanov, although it was tougher and longer than Federer’s win.

Nadal trailed 6-5 before Khachanov’s forehand error forced the second tiebreaker, which Nadal dominated to close out the match that lasted just over two hours.Against Hurkacz, Federer fought off two break points in the second set, including the last game when he closed the match with a forehand winner off a short ball.

Hurkacz, a 22-year-old Pole, earned three-set upsets of No. 28 Lucas Pouille, No. 6 Kei Nishikori and No. 24 Denis Shapovalov to make his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final against his childhood idol. Federer was playing in his 83rd at this level.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2019

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