Indian Wells Masters 2018 semifinal tips: Back Roger Federer to defeat Borna Coric and Milos Raonic to shock Juan Martin del Potro

Live Tennis Staff in ATP 17 Mar 2018
Roger Federer (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Two sensational men's semifinals at the Indian Wells Masters pit Roger Federer, on a 16-match winning streak, against Borna Coric who is enjoying the form of his life while former runners-up Juan Martin del Potro and Milos Raonic face off to make it back to the final.

Roger Federer vs Borna Coric is live from Indian Wells on Saturday at 11am local/6pm GMT
Juan Martin del Potro vs Milos Raonic to follow
Watch and bet on Indian Wells tennis live at Unibet > sports > tennis

We break down the semifinals and pick out the best bets as the final four men standing in the field for the first Masters 1000 Series event of 2018 prepare to face off. 

Roger Federer vs Borna Coric, 11am local/6pm GMT

Can anyone stop Roger Federer from winning the Indian Wells Masters title once again? This has been the question on everyone's minds, with the defending champion coming into the tournament on a 12-0 winning streak and his biggest rivals missing from the field entirely or in no shape to compete - and so far the answer has been a resounding 'no', with Federer yet to drop a set as he cruised into the semifinals, extending his winning streak to 16-0 and equaling his best-ever start to a season.

Borna Coric  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Back in 2006, the last time Federer went 16-0 to start a season, it was Rafael Nadal who snapped his winning streak by beating Federer in the Dubai final. But Borna Coric is no Rafael Nadal (although he has beaten him - twice). The 21-year-old Croatian, currently ranked world no. 50, was among the first of his generation to make an impact but got lost in the shuffle and overshadowed by the likes of Alexander Zverev and Hyeon Chung. But with a new coaching team, Coric has out of nowhere found a rich vein of form in the desert, beating a succession of solid opponents - Donald Young, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Roberto Bautista Agut, Taylor Fritz and seventh seed Kevin Anderson - to make a first Masters 1000 Series semifinals.

Solid opponents - but nothing like facing Federer. The world no. 1 hasn't been absolutely crushing opponents left and right - he's been pushed to 7-5 twice, by Jeremy Chardy and Chung in the first sets of those matches, and even to a tie break by Federico Delbonis in the second round, although an overnight rain delay certainly had something to do with that. But I don't think that's a sign of frailty. I think that's a sign of a totally confident, totally fit and totally relaxed Federer, doing what he has to do to get through the draw, letting himself be tested just enough to keep his interest, and revving up to deliver some crushing victories in the closing stages when - in theory, anyway - he faces his toughest opposition.

Coric is fundamentally a counterpuncher with an impressive turn of speed around the court, a nice line in lobs and touch shots and a game built on consistency from the baseline. That's a game that is helped by this year's unusually slow, gritty and high-bouncing courts, but it's not a winning recipe against Federer (unless you're going to serve as well as Novak Djokovic, attack down the lines as well as Novak Djokovic, develop as many ways to finish off the point as Novak Djokovic). A man whose serve got broken three times by Kevin Anderson isn't going to fare well against the Federer return, and a player who wins points by grinding from behind the baseline is simply vacating real estate for Federer to drop winning volleys into.

Last time Federer and Coric met, it was in 2015 and Coric got just three games in a 6-2, 6-1 defeat (a games-won margin of 9). The common-sense argument says it'll be closer this time. The common-sense argument also says Federer is retired by now and certainly isn't dominating the game completely at the age of 36. Common sense really doesn't come into this. 

Read more analysis of Federer vs Coric.

Juan Martin del Potro vs Milos Raonic, 12.30pm local/7.30pm GMT

Many are gleefully anticipating what would be a blockbuster final between Federer and Juan Martin del Potro - but those people might just be counting their chickens before they've hatched.

Del Potro is on a nine-match winning streak after capturing the title in Acapulco and making the semifinals here for the first time in five years, but I don't think he's actually playing that well. He's had a soft draw - who hasn't in the bottom half of the 2018 Indian Wells Masters? - and he's still managed to be taken to three sets, by both Leonardo Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber. He got a little lucky to beat Kohlschreiber at all in the quarterfinals, and it cost him a lot in effort - he said his legs were 'completely tired' afterwards - because he didn't impose himself on the match in the way he could have. 

Milos Raonic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Fellow former runner-up Milos Raonic - del Potro lost to Nadal in the 2013 final, Raonic to Djokovic in the 2016 final - rarely struggles to impose himself. Now coached by Goran Ivanisevic, who has a nice line in helping big servers to get the most out of the aggressive potential in that shot (something del Potro has never mastered), Raonic's recent career has been a litany of injury struggles and coming into Indian Wells he had only won one match in 2018. But helped by a smooth draw - see above - through the first two rounds, as he faced Felix Auger-Aliassime and Joao Sousa, conqueror of Alexander Zverev, Raonic has played himself into some form, and crucially he has played a lot less tennis than del Potro, both leading into Indian Wells and at the tournament itself after a walkover from Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round.

That walkover initially worked against Raonic, who made a woeful start in his quarterfinal against Sam Querrey, but once the Canadian found his match rhythm he played pretty well. Querrey choking at the end of the first set definitely helped, but Raonic was in position to take advantage and, most crucially, was aggressive and proactive on break points and big points - not something that's always been the case. Raonic did have another wobble that cost him the second set, and revealed his lack of match fitness, but he was solid as a rock for a three-set win that will have done his confidence the world of good. 

It feels like del Potro should be the superior player - so much more versatile and solid off the ground and at the baseline - but nevertheless he trails Raonic 1-2 in the head-to-head, and although one of those defeats was quite understandable, coming as it did in the semifinals of Delray Beach last February when del Potro was playing his first match since the Davis Cup final, another came in 2013 when del Potro was playing some of his best tennis, and at the Rogers Cup, in similar conditions. I think del Potro's long matches against Mayer and Kohlschreiber have cost him too much, and I don't think he's being disciplined enough in attacking down the line with his backhand (always a flaw in his game). I think Raonic will enjoy running around del Potro's backhand for his preferred inside-out forehand, and I think the Canadian will be the winner on Saturday.

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Indian Wells Masters 2018 semifinal tips: Back Roger Federer to defeat Borna Coric and Milos Raonic to shock Juan Martin del Potro

Roger Federer faces Borna Coric in a lopsided clash while Juan Martin del Potro takes on Milos Raonic in a battle of former finalists at Indian Wells on Saturday 17 March: Who will make the final? We pick out the best bets and make our predictions

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