INDIAN WELLS: Rafael Nadal withstood the challenge of Russian Karen Khachanov to set up a blockbuster semi-final with Roger Federer at the ATP Indian Wells Masters Friday despite a flare-up of right knee trouble that required mid-match treatment.
World number two Nadal, the highest seed left in the draw after the early ouster of No. 1 Novak Djokovic, dominated both tiebreakers to beat the towering Russian 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2).
He booked a 39th career meeting with Federer, a five-time champion at Indian Wells who breezed past 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-4.
“Hopefully I will be ready for it,” said Nadal, who recovered an early break in the opening set and powered through the tiebreaker, but called for the trainer to have supportive tape applied below his right knee three games into the second.
“Of course my goal and my idea is to be ready for tomorrow,” he said.
Although he wasn’t moving as well, Nadal gained the first break of the second set to lead 3-2, but was immediately broken himself.
He saved a set point in a fierce 10th game that went to deuce three times before Nadal held to make it 5-5. He couldn’t convert a break chance in the 11th game as they went to another tiebreaker which the Spaniard again controlled.
“Well, I am used to play with some issues, so I just tried to be focused and to keep hold of the situation,” said Nadal who has battled knee tendinitis and other injuries throughout his career. “It’s one of these victories today that I’m really proud of.”
Khachanov, who peppered Nadal with 17 aces in the two-hour, 17-minute match, has now lost all six of his career meetings with the Spaniard.
He’ll be gunning for a chance to claim a fourth Indian Wells title while Federer is seeking to break out of a tie with Djokovic with a record sixth.
Nadal leads the head-to-head rivalry with Federer 23-15, but Federer has won 11 of their 20 hard-court meetings, including their last five.
However, they haven’t met since October of 2017, when Federer triumphed in straight sets in the final of the Shanghai Masters.
Federer said he might not feel quite the same tingle of anticipation as fans at the prospect of facing Nadal, but he acknowledged that their clashes always raise the stakes.
“If I play Rafa there’s extra energy in the building — there’s always a lot on the line,” said Federer, who added that so much time has passed since their last meeting that his own current five-match winning streak is of little significance.
“I don’t think those five matches matter that much, to be honest,” he said. “A lot of time has gone by.
Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion who captured his 100th career title at Dubai last month, overcame breezy conditions on stadium court and a hungry Hurkacz — a 22-year-old ranked 67th in the world who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final and just the second quarter-final of his career.
Hurkacz settled his early nerves to produce some entertaining rallies, but he couldn’t make a dent in Federer’s serve.
One break in each set was all Federer needed to seal the win after an hour and 14 minutes.
“Overall I’m very pleased with that performance,” said Federer, who has reached the final four without dropping a set, winning 38 of his 39 service games.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m holding my serve comfortably, I’m in a good place mentally when I go into my service games. I think it showed this week thus far, so I hope I can keep that up.”
Japan Olympic chief facing corruption probe to step down in June
TOKYO: The head of Japan’s Olympic Committee said Tuesday he would step down in June, as French authorities probe his involvement in payments made before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games.
Tsunekazu Takeda cited the age limit on the job, which the committee had previously been expected to revise to allow him to stay on until the Games.
UEFA probe Ronaldo for ‘improper conduct’ over ‘cojones’ goal celebration
MILAN: UEFA on Monday opened an investigation into Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration after scoring a hat-trick in Juventus’ Champions League comeback win against Atletico Madrid last week.
European football’s governing body said Ronaldo was facing charges of “improper conduct” after he mimicked Diego Simeone’s crotch-grabbing ‘cojones’ gesture in last Tuesday’s 3-0 win that sent Juventus through 3-2 on aggregate.
After scoring the decisive penalty four minutes from time, Ronaldo turned towards the Atletico fans and replicated Simeone’s gesture after the Spaniards’ 2-0 first leg win by grasping his genitals and thrusting out his groin.
A decision will be taken by UEFA on March 21.
Juventus take on Dutch club Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals over two legs, on April 10 in Amsterdam and April 16 in Turin.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he is confident Ronaldo will not be fined or suspended.
“I think everyone celebrated their own way on the field and in the stands. I saw nothing strange, just a celebration. There won’t be a ban,” said Allegri.
Simeone was fined 20,000 euros ($22,000) by UEFA for his gesture.
“He will have seen how I did it at the Wanda Metropolitano and, like me, was trying to show his character,” said the Argentinian coach.
Five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo is the record goal scorer in the European competition with 124 goals in 160 matches.
Shane Watson named Player of PSL 2019
LAHORE: Shane Watson of Quetta Gladiators was named as the Player of HBL PSL 2019 after the 2007 World Cup winner with Australia finished as the leading run-getter in the 32-day tournament, which culminated at the National Stadium on late Sunday.
Watson finished the series with 430 runs from 12 matches at an average of 43 and a strike-rate of 143.8. He clubbed most number of fours and sixes in the tournament, 43 and 22, respectively, said the information made available here.
Watson won player of the match awards against Islamabad United, when he scored 81 not out, Peshawar Zalmi, when he scored 91 not out, and again versus Peshawar Zalmi in the Qualifier, when he top-scored with 71 and then bowled the crucial last-over of the match to help his side win by 10 runs.
Watson, for his consistency with the bat and proving to be one of the decisive factors in Gladiators’ title-winning campaign, was also declared Brighto Best Batsman of HBL PSL 2019.
Hasan Ali of Peshawar Zalmi was adjudged the Go Lootlo Best Bowler of HBL PSL 2019. The fast bowler picked up crucial wickets and finished the series with 25 wickets at an average of 13 with an economy-rate of just under seven.
Hasan took four wickets in a match three times.
Luke Ronchi won the Jubilee Safe Hands of HBL PSL 2019 award when he dismissed 11 batsmen behind the stumps, while Peshawar Zalmi’s Kieron Pollard was declared the ARIAL and J. Best Player on the Field, when he finished the series with 284 runs, five wickets and 10 catches.
Karachi Kings’ left-arm spinner Umer Khan was named as the newly introduced Emerging Player of HBL PSL 2019 award. The 18-year-old mesmerised the top-order of all the sides and claimed 15 prized scalps at an economy-rate of just over 7.
Islamabad United was declared the winner of Cool & Cool Spirit of Cricket award, which they dedicated to their middle-order batsman Asif Ali in recognition to this commitment to the team despite the ailment of his young daughter.
The individual winners were chosen by an independent panel, which included Mudassar Nazar (Chairman, Event Technical Committee), and also comprised respected commentators Ramiz Raja and Danny Morrison.
Winners are, Cool & Cool Spirit of Cricket;Islamabad United, Emerging Player of HBL PSL 2019; Umer Khan (Karachi Kings), ARIAL and J. Best player on the field; Kieron Pollard (Peshawar Zalmi), Jubilee Safe Hands of HBL PSL 2019; Luke Ronchi (Islamabad United), Go Lootlo Best Bowler of HBL PSL 2019; Hasan Ali (Peshawar Zalmi),Brighto Best Batsman of HBL PSL 2019; Shane Watson (Quetta Gladiators), HBL Player of PSL 2019; Shane Watson (Quetta Gladiators).