Dominic Thiem has qualified for the Indian Wells Championship against Roger Federer. Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
A rested Roger Federer will have the chance to win his sixth title at Indian Wells when he faces Dominic Thiem in the BNP Paribas Open league match on Sunday.
Federer is well rested because he had a problem during the semifinal, his longtime rival, Rafael Nadal, could not play due to a knee problem that has bursts.
In the other semifinal, Thiem beat Milos Raonic in the semifinal, recording a 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-4 win.
Thiem dominated his serve, winning all his matches, and he managed to beat Raonic in the last set. Raonic almost came out of the last game, he would have framed the third set, but Thiem used his speed on the field to run around the return of Raonic and unleash his powerful forehand.
Nadal had knee problems in his quarter-final win over Karen Khachanov 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2). He had called the coach twice in the second set, and when he got speaking about his knee after the match, he said he hoped it would allow him to play against Federer.
Instead, Nadal knew something was wrong when he tried to get warm on Saturday morning. "I warmed up today and felt that my knee was not good enough to compete at the level where I had to compete. [the] semi finals, " Nadal said, according to the Associated Press (h / t Parlay Game).
Federer and Nadal were about to play their 39th match. Nadal led 23-15. Neither player lost a set in his previous tournament matches, but Nadal was simply not healthy enough to compete with his longtime rival.
Nadal will also miss the next Miami Open because of his injury. He will not return to the game until the Monte-Carlo Masters on clay in mid-April. Clay has long been the favorite surface of Nadal.
Federer commented on Nadal's withdrawal. Despite the deficit in their one-on-one matches, he had won his last five games against the Spaniard.
"I'm just going to continue, and I'm going to continue doing the things that suit me best and accept that sometimes these problems can happen" Federer said, by Richard Osborn of BNPParibasOpen.com. "So, I'm fine for everything in my hands, which I can not control, I can not."
Federer and Thiem will meet at the championship game on Sunday night. The men's championship will start approximately 30 minutes after the end of the match for the women's title between Angélique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu.
The women's match will start at 16h. ET and ESPN2 will televise both matches.
Thiem, 25, should be fairly confident against the legendary 37-year-old Federer. The two men have shared four previous matches. Thiem had won two of three matches in 2016, while Federer had won their match in 2018.
"I will probably play the best player of all time," Thiem said in a field interview with ESPN's Mary Jo Fernandez. "He is really fit and I will do everything I can to stop him."
Federer's two wins were consecutive sets, while Thiem was pushed to three sets in one of his wins.
Federer has 100 titles in career tournament, while Thiem has 11.
Federer is in top shape at Indian Wells and he had a great chance of not having to face Nadal.
He could have beaten his great rival or lost, but in one case as in the other, Federer should have worked nearly three hours under the hot Californian sun.
No matter how disappointed fans are with missing a potential classic match, not having to play allows Federer to have the rest necessary to be at his best when the championship is at stake.
Thiem is a strong opponent with incredible speed and a smart game plan, but beating Raonic is one thing and defeating Federer is another.
Especially when Federer is healthy, rested and very close to the top. Look for Federer to beat Thiem, probably in sets.