After navigating his way through the treacherous bottom half of the draw at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open, with a tad bit of help, ninth-seeded Roger Federer finds himself in yet another ATP World Tour Masters 1000 championship match.
The 35-year-old will face friend and compatriot Stan Wawrinka, who is vying for only his second Masters 1000 title, having won the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters in 2014. Federer, on the other hand, is seeking his 25th Masters 1000 title and fifth title in Indian Wells, which would tie Novak Djokovic for most all-time.
The two Swiss stars have had very different runs to the final. Federer has played one less match, as he received a walk-over in the quarterfinal with Nick Kyrgios pulling out due to fatigue.
In addition, Federer has yet to lose a set, let alone a single service game. He has only faced one break point, against Nadal, and Federer saved it.
Third-seeded Wawrinka, into his first final in Indian Wells, has dropped two sets in five matches in his wins over Yoshihito Nishioka in the round-of-16 and over Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinal. In both matches, Wawrinka won in a third-set tiebreak.
This is the first all-countrymen final in Indian Wells since 2001, when Andre Agassi defeated Pete Sampras. The 2017 champion will become the oldest male winner at the tournament. Jimmy Connors currently holds that record, taking the crown at 31-years-old in 1984.
Should Federer win the title, he will move up to number six in the world. With a loss, he will advance into the seventh spot in the ATP World Tour rankings.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion holds a 19-3 head-to-head record over Wawrinka. The pair have played twice at Indian Wells, with Federer taking both contests. Wawrinka has only beaten Federer on clay courts. The two most recently met in the 2017 Australian Open in the semifinals, with Federer winning in five sets.
Federer overwhelms Jack Sock in semifinals
At the beginning of the tournament, the 18-time Grand Slam champion faced the prospect of having to face Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, all before reaching the final. With a stroke of luck, the Swiss number two only had to face one, with Djokovic falling to Nick Kyrgios before he pulled out.
In a rematch of the Australian Open final, Federer was incredible against Nadal in the round-of-16, crushing his long-time rival. He then got the walkover into the semifinal, where he faced American Jack Sock.
The former world number one came out firing, claiming the opening set in only 22 minutes. Sock appeared to be dealing with some sort of ailment, but he picked his level of play up in the second set. He pushed the Swiss number two, but Federer was too strong in the end, taking the match 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Wawrinka too strong for Pablo Carreno Busta
The third seed was the overwhelming favorite entering his semifinal contest, and the world number three did not disappoint.
Carreno Busta, a surprise semifinalist, played well, but he was down from the first ball. Wawrinka was too strong for the Spaniard, yet Carreno Busta did play well. However, the three-time Grand Slam champion was simply too strong, and he powered his way into his first Indian Wells final with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Analysis and prediction
Simply judging by their head-to-head, Federer is the overwhelming favorite in this match. That combined with the fact that he is undefeated against Wawrinka on hard courts, it is hard to pick against the 18-time Grand Slam champ.
However, Wawrinka cannot be counted out. On the courts in Indian Wells, which play fast, the Swiss number one’s powerful game can be lethal. Federer has been playing very confident throughout, but this will undoubtedly be a great challenge.
Judging from their marathon semifinal down under two months ago, this promises to be a fun, historic final. The one-handed backhands will be on full display on Sunday as the 2017 BNP Paribas Open ends.
Prediction: Federer in three sets