federer_nadal_indian_wells_sferturi_finalaThe 2 fair haired boys (above) are back at each other in Indian Wells.

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells — Men’s Quarter-final (Approx. 10 PM EST)

Roger Federer:  – 140

Rafael Nadal:  + 110

The h2h is still grizzly (Nadal, 18-10), which won’t be helped by Nadal’s precarious nature, because we don’t really see him making it too deep at the events where Federer can make headway in the h2h.  Just like when Roger was king, and he’d lose to Nadal at 2 Masters Finals and the RG Final every year–his reward for constantly going so deep–while Nadal hid from Roger at the events where Roger has a surface edge, like Cincinnati (where they’ve never met), the USO (where they’ve never met), and indoors (where they’ve only met 4 times and only at the YEC).

Tonight’s match, should Nadal keep his appointments, will be the 1st in the matchup since Key Biscayne in 2004 when the players have met before the semi-finals, and only the 2nd time ever.  Frankly, after watching Nadal handle Federer in Melbourne last year on Plexcushion (a 2nd terrible defeat against Nadal at Oz), we were shocked to see Federer have such an easy time with Nadal, when he beat Nadal 6-3, 6-4 here at Indian Wells.  Especially surprising also considering that in 2011 on a similar court with similar if not the same weather conditions–cool and windy–Nadal gave Federer what was probably the worst hard court loss he has ever suffered (6-3, 6-2 with a 62-39 edge on points).

But really, that was Rafa at his all time best, not too far removed from completing the career slam, and this is not.  Obviously Nadal is not himself, and any time when that’s the case, we’d favor Federer in the matchup.  Though Federer didn’t look all that hot himself in fending off Stan the Man last night.  Federer said that he and Nadal both “have issues” at the presser today.  Federer seems to have a lingering back issue that a lot of guys are speculating about.  We heard some good conjecture from we think Mark Knowles, who claimed that Roger is hampered, from what he can tell, on overheads and stretches.  But like the great Johnny Mac likes to say, the Fed back is an injury that hurts way more when he is losing.  We recall the whispers about Fed’s back within 48 hrs of the great man laying absolute waste to Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at Wimbledon, 2012.  Federer, a picture of health usually, has shown a tremendous ability to shake off back problems, which while they do nag, they have not proven degenerative.  And then you kind of say ‘well Roger doesn’t seem too bothered’ when he goes out and plays well, because unlike some, Roger has not spent his career whining about injuries.  Then Roger will lose to a Berdy or Soderling or Tsonga and suggest that he wouldn’t have lost if the back were not a factor.

For us, we see it as pride before the fall.  We don’t think Roger played hungry tennis against Soderling (RG, 2010) or Tsonga at SW-19 in 012, and against power players like that, the great man hasn’t looked good.  Sure, eventually a guy like Berdych is going to win a night match on Ashe and eventually Federer is going to lose one.  But the power is a problem, and seems to be Roger’s worst one, especially when really taking apart the recent losses and all the trouble he’s had with guys like Berdych and Del Potro, who serve big and who can control the baseline.  We don’t see it as as great a problem on quicker surfaces, then again, we didn’t think Dubai was that slow.  We didn’t think London was that slow at the YEC or any of the back end spots where DP got him at the end of 2012.

So we don’t actually see Nadal as the great threat to Federer he’s always been, and we won’t either, until or unless Nadal finds a way to make his legs his biggest weapon again.  Especially on a clay like surface as bad as this one.  Until that day, Federer has a more comfortable matchup here, back willing.

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