INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — There was no roar from Rafael Nadal after he beat Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night. In front of a capacity crowd, Nadal punctuated the victory with a simple fist pump before walking to the net to greet Federer.
“He told me he’s happy that I’m back,” Nadal said of the pleasantries exchanged at the net. “He just congratulated me and [I] asked him [about] his back. He told me, ‘No, I’m fine.’ “
Nadal’s muted celebration was another signal of the respect and familiarity between the two, as it was clear Federer couldn’t play his best because of a back injury.
“I played a fantastic first set, in my opinion,” Nadal said. “The second set was strange. The second set I think Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.”
Federer, who had been dealing with the back injury in his previous two matches, said he was just happy to be fit enough to take the court.
“It’s obviously a small issue,” he said. “That doesn’t work against guys like Rafa, obviously.”
The Spaniard has come back after seven months off the tour to tear through three clay tournaments, winning in Brazil and Mexico and making the final in Chile. The fact that Nadal could beat Federer with just two hard-court matches under his belt — before Indian Wells, he had not played a hard-court match since Miami last year — didn’t seem to faze Federer.
“He’s not going to come back if he’s not well,” Federer said. “He’s not going to come back half broken. I expected him to tear through the clay. I expected him to be tough here, which he shows to be.”