Millennium Post

Rafa blows Federer away

Rafael Nadal took another step in his return from injury with a convincing victory over a hurting Roger Federer on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells Masters.

Nadal broke Federer three times in the second set en route to a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who has been nursing a nagging back injury.

‘I don’t think Roger was 100 percent tonight,’ said Nadal, who nevertheless said the win over his great rival was a key step in his comeback from a seven-month absence rehabilitating his damaged left knee.

‘I’m very happy to be in the semifinals,’ Nadal said. ‘It was an important win for me -- they all are now.’

Nadal, the former world No. 1 and winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, returned in February and notched one runner-up finish and two titles in a three-tournament Latin American clay-court swing.

But Nadal hadn’t tested his knee on hard courts since pulling out of the Miami Masters last March.

Nadal improved to 19-10 against Federer in a rivalry stretching back to 2004 and including some epic clashes on the game’s biggest stages.

But they hadn’t met since their semifinal meeting here last year, which Federer won en route to his fourth Indian Wells crown.

‘It’s obviously a small issue,’ Federer said of the back trouble that he has received treatment for throughout the tournament. ‘That doesn’t work against a guy like Rafa.

‘At least I could serve full, and that always gives you a direction,’ added Federer, who said he didn’t want to harp on his injury and take away from Nadal’s performance.’
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