Oddly, it has never happened at Indian Wells.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer today will meet for the 28th time but first in the Coachella Valley (ABC, 1 p.m.).
In the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday, the second-seeded Nadal eked out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over unseeded David Nalbandian, and the third-seeded Federer dispatched No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2. Both Nalbandian and del Potro are Argentines who have undergone major operations in the last three years.
Nadal and Federer will meet for the first time since the Spaniard's four-set victory in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January. Nadal has won the singles title at Indian Wells once (2009) and Federer three times (2004-06). The Palm Springs area is famous for its warm, sunny weather, but rain and wind are forecast for today.
"Playing against Roger always means a little bit more than against the rest of the opponents because I am playing probably against the best of the history, and because I played probably the most important matches of my career against him and probably him against me," Nadal, who's 18-9 against Federer, told reporters. "That's why it makes the match a little bit more special than the rest.”
Federer is 37-2 with five titles since the U.S. Open. His other loss came last month in first round of the Davis Cup in Switzerland against American John Isner, who will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic in today's other semifinal (ABC, 11 a.m. PDT).
Sunday's women's final (ABC, 11 a.m. PDT) between top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and No. 2 Maria Sharapova also will be a 2012 Australian Open rematch. Azarenka, playing in her first Grand Slam singles final, crushed Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in Melbourne. Additionally, they met in the 2010 Bank of the West final at Stanford, with Azarenka winning 6-4, 6-1.
Azarenka improved to 22-0 this year, the best start since Martina Hingis went 37-0 in 1997, with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over 18th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany. Sharapova, who underwent shoulder surgery in 2008, led 6-4, 0-1 when 15th-seeded Ana Ivanovic retired with a left hip injury in a matchup of former top-ranked players.
Nadal came within two points of losing against Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up who had hip surgery in 2009, while serving at 4-6, 4-5, 15-30. He held serve, Nalbandian double-faulted on break point in the next game, and Nadal was on his way.
A controversy erupted in the first game of the Federer-del Potro match when a line judge called a Federer first serve good. Del Potro wanted to challenge the call, but the Hawk Eye electronic line-calling system wasn't working at the time, and the chair umpire wouldn't overrule.
“It was clear out, and the machine doesn’t work,” del Potro said. “ ... Could be a big chance to me to change the way of the match in that game. After that, I was not concentrating.”
Federer improved to 10-2 against del Potro, including straight-set victories in the Swiss maestro's last four tournaments this year. However, one of the losses came in the 2009 U.S. Open final. The right-handed Del Potro, 23, underwent right wrist surgery in 2010.
Unseeded Isner and Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, knocked off second-seeded Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 6-4, 6-2 to reach today's men's doubles final. Isner and Querrey will meet unseeded Marc Lopez and Nadal, the 2010 Indian Wells champions.