Ricky’s preview and picks for the Indian Wells semifinals: Federer vs. Sock, Wawrinka vs. Carreno Busta
By Ricky Dimon
A surprising semifinal lineup will take center stage at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday. Swiss stars Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are not unexpected participants in the last four, but their opponents were relative longshots when the tournament began. Federer is facing Jack Sock, while Pablo Carreno Busta stands in Wawrinka’s way of the title match.
Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions.
(17) Jack Sock vs. (9) Roger Federer
Federer and Sock will be meeting for the third time in their careers and for the second time in Indian Wells on Saturday. Both of their previous contests have gone Federer’s way; 6-3, 6-2 in round four of this event in 2015 and 6-3, 6-4 later that year on the indoor hard courts of Basel.
Sock’s 2015 run in the desert saw him win three straight matches from a set down, including one in a third-set tiebreaker. The American has been up to similar tricks this time around: four consecutive three-set victories–including two after losing the first set–and one over Grigor Dimitrov in a final-set tiebreaker (he also defeated Henri Laaksonen, Malek Jaziri, and Kei Nishikori).
If Sock is fatigued heading into Saturday, Federer is nothing of the sort. The 35-year-old Swiss did not drop a set in defeats of Stephane Robert, Steve Johnson, and Rafael Nadal before getting a walkover from Nick Kyrgios on Friday. Federer is 11-1 this season and, of course, captured his 18th career major title at the Aussie Open. A red-hot world No. 10 combined with a weary opponent should result in something similar to what transpired between Federer and Sock two years ago in Indian Wells.
Pick: Federer in 2
(21) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (3) Stan Wawrinka
Some say it is better to be lucky than good, and Carreno Busta has been both at the Indian Wells Masters. Top seed Andy Murray vacated the top quarter of the bracket in the second round and that semifinal spot was wide open thereafter. Vasek Pospisil, who stunned Murray, promptly lost to Dusan Lajovic in the last 32 before Carreno Busta took care of Lajovic to reach the quarters. The 23rd-ranked Spaniard preceded that result with a victory over Peter Gojowyczk, got a walkover from Robert Bautista Agut, and eventually saved two match points in a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(4) quarterfinal triumph over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday. Carreno Busta is now 15-6 this season with a runner-up finish on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro.
Up next for the No. 21 seed on Saturday is a third career showdown against Wawrinka, who leads the head-to-head series 2-0. The Swiss got the job done 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at the 2013 Oeiras event and again on clay via a 6-3, 6-1 decision last season in Geneva. Wawrinka survived two consecutive third-set tiebreakers to earn his place in this matchup; he edged Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) after the lucky loser twice failed to serve out the match, and he outlasted Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2) on Thursday night. The world No. 3, who beat Palo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber in easier fashion, is 11-3 in 2017 with semifinal performances in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Carreno Busta recently talked about his commitment to playing more offensive tennis in 2017, but that is not something he will be able to do against an opponent who has an especially big advantage in the serve and backhand categories.
Pick: Wawrinka in 2