Djokovic and Nadal one match away from Indian Wells blockbuster
By Ros Satar – In Indian Wells
- Rafael Nadal  v Kei Nishikori 
- Novak Djokovic  v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 
INDIAN WELLS, USA – Despite the carnage of the lower end of the draw, the top half, much like the women, is top-loaded with a blockbuster quarter-final line-up.
Rafael Nadal  v Kei Nishikori  – H2H: Nadal leads 7-1
We think we can all agree that the match between Nadal and young German Alexander Zverev was one of the matches of the tournaments. The lanky teenager had the tour veteran on the ropes, but for a botched match-point volley, and the Spaniard lives to fight another day.
Where once the fistpumping, ‘vamos’ing bull of Mallorca was pretty much assured of a win down to the sheer presence of the man on court, he cuts a very different figure now. Gone are the injuries to his knee/knees, and a leaner, trimmer Nadal continues to ply his trade from the baseline and that trademark lassoo forehand hasn’t really lost any of its bite, but his invincibility is no longer a given.
But take nothing away from him – he has not lost that ability to fight, and his experience carried him through a match where it took him a long while to figure out the rangy German.
Against an older foe of Nishikori, Nadal has far more luck at deciphering the wily Japanese player. Not possessed of huge weapons, Nishikori relies on being fleet of foot, and a canny use of angles to get his points on the board.
It has to be said, he too has not been the most convincing this week, almost getting upended in a close match with USA’s Steve Johnson, where perhaps he was lucky to come away with the first set having been on the back foot for most of that set. He had to come from a set behind after a woefully slow start against another home hope John Isner, and he can ill afford to start as tardily against Nadal.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets.
Novak Djokovic  v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 
– H2H: Djokovic leads 14-6
Are we beginning to see the first signs of fragility in Djokovic? He struggled with an eye infection in Dubai, and was pushed to five sets in the Davis Cup by Mikhail Kukushkin, not to mention dropping a set in his opener here in Indian Wells against USA’s Bjorn Fratangelo, before righting the ship for more routine wins to this point.
Of course he is also known for playing himself into form, as he remains on a collision course for a blockbuster (surely de facto final?) semi-final with Nadal, we can expect to see him switch up a gear.
The charismatic Tsonga may have to hold onto the fact that he finally managed to snap a nine-match losing streak to the Serbian two years ago at the Rogers Cup but it had been largely one way traffic against the Frenchman for almost three years.
Djokovic has a way of nullifying the heavy clubbing serves that Tsonga can send down, and will grind away from the baseline all day long if Tsonga will let him. The Frenchman will have to come forward, and why not? For such a big and powerful unit he has deft touch at the net, and if he can yank Djokovic from prowling the baseline, for a little serve and volley, he should be able to have a good stab at staying in contention.
But a lean mean Djokovic is looking to stamp his mark on the spring hard court swing.
Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.
Both matches are scheduled on Stadium 1; Nadal v Nishikori is scheduled at 12pm (7pm GMT) and Djokovic v Tsonga, not before 2pm (9pm GMT).