BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells
[CR5] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [CR6] Kei Nishikori (JPN)
Nadal led their head-to-head 7:1 coming into this match; however, he lost their last encounter in two easy sets. Today was important for Nadal who has been struggling to beat players ranked above fifty. The process of regaining his confidence has been painstakingly slow. He’s not a hundred percent back, but he is showing more signs of the vintage Nadal that we love and admire. It was a shaky start for Nadal; however, that was to be expected given his recent struggles and the memories of their last encounter. Nishikori has not been playing his best tennis; therefore, Nadal was not deterred and broke back. He was more confident in this match and despite the occasional hesitancy in his play, Nadal fought through them to break again and win the first set.
The second set was a better start for Nadal; yet, he stumbled a little to let Nishikori back into the set/match. That was short-lived though because Nishikori seemed to be struggling to regain his form after a disputed line call in the first set. The battle to remain mentally focused is a constant for every player, and some days it is more obvious than others. Nishikori lost his edge and Nadal elevated his game. He kept his shots deep, keeping Nishikori pinned behind the baseline and off balanced. Nadal won 6-4, 6-3; however, his next opponent is Djokovic, who has won their last five encounters. Is Nadal in good enough shape to upset Djokovic or will this be another one-sided victory for Djokovic? Nadal is the underdog, but we are rooting for him to pull off the upset and begin the process of reclaiming his rightful position amongst the top four.