Rafael Nadal takes on Juan Martin Del Potro in a fascinating semi-final at the BNP Paribas Open.
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Del Potro has surprised many with the rate of his progress this year. Just over two months into his return to the tour, he has claimed a title in Delray Beach and now is in the last four of a Masters Series event. However is he ready to topple the world number one again ?
Del Potro has won his last three matches with Nadal, all on the hard courts of North America in 2009. The last time was in the 2009 US Open semi-finals when the Argentine pulverised Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 with a ferocious display of power tennis. After earlier wins in Miami and Montreal, it seemed as though Del Potro was establishing a serious hold over the Spaniard.
Nadal can occasionally be vulnerable to players like Del Potro who can pull him off the court with aggressive flat hitting. Nadal is able to kick the ball up to uncomfortable heights for most players with his heavy topspin but against the 6’6 Del Potro, most balls just end up right in his strike zone.
However in order to have a chance today, Del Potro will need to rediscover his service rhythm which has been lacking all week. He received a boost when Tommy Robredo pulled out before their quarter-final with a groin injury.
Nadal cruised through to the last eight where he received a serious test from Ivo Karlovic, who pushed him to the brink in an exhilarating three setter.
Prediction: Karlovic forced Nadal to find his best level and that should set him up nicely for this clash. Del Potro should get a set but is not quite ready enough to take Nadal down.