Rafael Nadal became the latest player to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open when he pulled out prior to his semifinal match Saturday against Roger Federer. The meeting would have been the 39th head-to-head matchup between the two superstars.
Nadal experienced pain in his right knee during Friday’s quarterfinal match against Karen Khachanov. Yet, after the knee was wrapped, he pressed on to win 7-6(2), 7-6(2) to set up his match against Federer, who had defeated Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets in the previous match on Stadium Court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The tournament made the announcement at 10:58 a.m PT.
“I warmed up today and I felt that my knee was not good to compete at the level I needed to compete in semifinals,” Nadal said in a news conference at 11 a.m.
With Nadal’s withdrawal, Federer will advance to play the winner of Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem in the Indian Wells final. It will be Federer’s fifth finals appearance in his last five appearances in the desert, and he’ll play for what would be a record sixth singles championship at this event. He and Novak Djokovic each have won five.
With the withdrawal, Nadal became the latest high-profile player to be sidelined by injury or illness in the California desert. On Thursday evening, Gael Monfils withdrew from his quarterfinal match versus Thiem, citing a strained Achilles. Last Sunday, Serena Williams retired from her match against Garbine Muguruza with what was described as a viral illness.
The anticipation for the Nadal-Federer match was significant. Stadium 1 tickets had sold out, and the cheapest tickets available online were $305 apiece for the upper deck.
After his win Friday, Nadal did not guarantee that he’d be ready for Saturday’s semifinal, though he was optimistic.
“Hopefully,” he said. “It’s difficult for me to answer, but anything that I can answer, you can put it in a negative way.
“Nobody can guarantee anything about what can happen the next day because, in this world, anything can happen. But of course my goal and my idea is be ready for tomorrow.”
He added: “I cannot guarantee how I’m gonna wake up tomorrow morning.”
Nadal’s injury appeared to be related to the patella tendinitis near his right knee that he’s battled in recent years. He missed last year’s BNP Paribas Open due to the ailment and played just nine events before the injury resurfaced and forced him to retire against Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last September.
He then withdrew from Brisbane earlier this year after an MRI urged a doctor to advise Nadal to not play the event if he wanted to be healthy for the Australian Open. He played in Melbourne and reached the final before suffering a lopsided loss to Djokovic.
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Andrew John is covering the BNP Paribas Open for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Email him at email@example.com