By Ros Satar – In Indian Wells
- Novak Djokovic  v Rafael Nadal 
- H2H: Djokovic leads 24-23
INDIAN WELLS, USA – Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal episode 48 unleashes in a blockbuster BNP Paribas Open semi-final on Saturday.
Nadal may have considered himself fortunate to get far after facing the considerable talent of Germany’s Alexander Zverev. Were it not for youthful inexperience and a spectacularly botched match-point volley, Nadal would be doing his practice in Miami now.
So was Zverev’s capitulation in vain? We had to wonder, when Kei Nishikori was within two break points of a 4-1 lead, before Nadal’s trademark fighting spirit kicked into high gear as he won the next three games to get his nose in front, before breaking for the first set.
An early break seemed to break Nishikori’s spirit and although he mounted a brief flurry of resistance, it was a straight sets win to go first into the semi-finals for Nadal – 6-4 6-3.
After the match Nadal said: “I feel myself strong mentally. I feel myself with the right energy. When that happens, the rest is a little bit less difficult, no? I am able to fight for every ball. I am able to keep going during the whole match, believe in myself again, and that make me play with more energy, less nerves.”
Less nerves is probably the key for Nadal if he wants to erase the memory of their last meeting which was an embarrassment of riches for Djokovic, and just an all round embarrassment for the Spaniard.
Djokovic looked to be starting the year in the same dominant style as he had ended it, taking the Doha title for the loss of just three games. But there have been some signs of frailty this year from the World No. 1. An eye infection caused him to retire in Dubai, and was pushed the point of near extinction by Mikhail Kukushkin in Davis Cup if his sprawling around the court was anything to go by.
Fast forward to this tournament and the US crowds almost saw a real treat as one of their own, Bjorn Fratangelo nabbed a set off the defending champion before normal service was resumed.
There were times when it looked as though Jo-Wilfried Tsonga might take the battle to Djokovic but a rash of missed first serves are mistakes one can ill-afford, as Djokovic weathered a tighter than necessary 7-6(2) 7-6(2) win over the Frenchman.
We can expect long and gruelling rallies from the offset, and in the predicted heat of the desert, as the second match on, we can expect it to be draining. Is it the de facto final? Well Milos Raonic is finally showing the kind of promise we all saw over the last few years to start to challenge the Big Four. But any chance to see these two engage in gladiatorial combat is to be welcomed.
Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.