Six weeks after capturing his elusive 18th major Down Under, Roger Federer will square off against good friend Stan Wawrinka in an all-Swiss battle for the 2017 BNP Paribas Open title after the ninth seed survived a late charge from 17th-seeded American Jack Sock to advance with a 6-1, 7-6(4) win.
Federer Flawless in Dominant 21-Minute First-Set Display
Having not dropped serve all week, let alone a set, Federer entered the match feeling reenergized after having an extra day’s rest by virtue of Nick Kyrgios’ unfortunate withdrawal in the previous round. Sock, by contrast, entered the match having played four back-to-back three-set matches, two of which ended in a 7-5 or 7-6 scoreline, and he had played about five more hours of tennis than Federer had in the last week, and it showed early on.
Seeing the ball extremely well, especially when returning serve, Federer needed a few games to settle in before finally beginning to find his range, with a little help from the American. After commanding the early exchanges in the fourth game with his rifling backhand, a netted smash followed by a double fault from Sock were enough for Federer to draw first blood and get the crucial break, one he would speedily consolidate with minimal fuss.
With the younger American already under relentless pressure, the 35-year-old Swiss’ single-break advantage would soon double before the Basel native swiftly moved to a one-set advantage, sealing the set, 6-1, with an ace.
Federer Survives Late Onslaught from Sock to Set Up All-Swiss Battle for Championship
After being completely outclassed in the opening 21 minutes of his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal, a bathroom break seemed to settle Sock as he returned with a new sense of purpose, holding his serve to keep Federer under pressure throughout the second, and most notably saving a break point in the seventh game to keep his nose in front.
Aside from that golden opportunity, there were no other break points exchanged in the second frame, which ultimately forced a tiebreak to decide whether this match would be done and dusted or be forced to go the distance, a concept Sock was no stranger to.
The American would spark the hopes of his home crowd of forcing a decider with a stunning backhand pass to go up 3-1, but Federer immediately responded by winning six of the next seven points to continue his perfect record against Sock and set up a highly-anticipated with countryman Wawrinka in the process.
Stats Corner: Federer’s Consistency the Key in Semifinal Victory
In another very clean match from the reigning Australian Open champion, the Swiss Maestro hit nearly two times as many winners as unforced errors (27 to 14), whereas Sock only had a +3 winners-to-errors differential after the match (16 to 13).
In addition to that, Federer looked imperious on serve during the 74-minute clash, hitting nine aces and never facing a single break point to keep up his perfect record in service games won at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. When he had the chance to move forward, the ninth seed was especially potent, winning 7/9 points at the net, while Sock was only successful less than half the time when choosing to take the gamble (6/13).
Next Up for Federer: Wawrinka
Awaiting the four-time BNP Paribas Open champion in the final will be a familiar foe in third seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who looked equally impressive in a 64-minute dispatching of surprise semifinalist Pablo Carreño Busta, the 21st seed.
Federer will be bidding to take home his 25th ATP Masters 1000 crown and 90th tour-level title overall, while Wawrinka, in contrast, will be looking to win just his second Masters title and 16th overall. The head-to-head swings heavily in the favour of the 18-time Grand Slam champion, 19-3, but Wawrinka, who is now one Wimbledon title away from completing the Career Grand Slam, shouldn’t be taken lightly whatsoever.
Their last meeting came just six weeks ago in the semifinals of the Australian Open, where Federer triumphed in a five-set battle before going on to triumph in another five-set thriller to win his first major in four-and-a-half years. However, it is worth nothing that their only meeting in a Masters 1000 final went the way of Wawrinka in three sets at the 2014 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, but can he do the same on Sunday in the Californian desert?