Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal would normally be a fantastic tournament final in the tennis world.
But that won’t be the case in the Paribas Open. Djokovic and Nadal will meet in the semifinals at Indian Wells, while David Goffin and Milos Raonic will also play for a spot in the finals.
Over on the women’s side, Serena Williams takes on Victoria Azarenka. Williams got to the finals after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals.
Here’s what you need to know heading into the men’s semifinals and women’s final matchups.
|Kei Nishikori vs. Rafael Nadal||Nadal: 6-4, 6-3|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Novak Djokovic||Djokovic: 7-6(2), 7-6(2)|
|Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Serena Williams||Williams: 6-4, 7-6(1)|
|Karolina Pliskova vs. Victoria Azarenka||Azarenka: 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-2|
Nadal vs. Djokovic
It was not an easy road for Djokovic to get to the semifinals. He had to withstand two tiebreaker sets in his quarterfinals match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(2), 7-6(2) on Friday.
His reward for another stellar tournament performance is the 48th meeting all time against the Grand Slam winner from Spain, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Djokovic has yet to lose a full match this year. His lone defeat came in Dubai, but he retired after the first set against Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals. Take that match out, and the world’s No. 1 player is 16-0 this year. His win over Tsonga also gave him the highest winning percentage of any player in history with an 82.75 percent clip.
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Although he’s made it this far, Nadal is not the same player he once was. Despite appearing in the semifinals in his last two events, Nadal’s performance in the Australian Open was still something to be cautious of, losing in the first round to Fernando Verdasco. But if there’s anyone who can bring the best out of Nadal on a big stage, it’s Djokovic.
The rivalry is 24-23 in favor of Djokovic, but since Nadal’s win at Roland Garros against him in 2014, Djokovic has won the last five meetings, all in straight sets, and nine of the last 10 meetings overall.
“Let’s try my best tomorrow. Let’s keep playing with the same energy. And we’ll see what’s going on,” Nadal said, per Billie Weiss of BNPParibasOpen.com. “I know Novak is playing unbelievable, so it’s difficult. But I am here to keep enjoying, keep trying my best, and keep playing with the right energy.”
Until proven otherwise, all the pressure is on Nadal to at least win one set against Djokovic and make this rivalry competitive again. Djokovic has taken control of this rivalry and can take control of another championship at Indian Wells with a win.
Goffin vs. Raonic
Goffin won one for the little guy on Thursday. The 5’11” Goffin took down 6’6″ Marin Cilic to reach the semifinals of the Paribas Open and did so in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-2.
Going into that match, Goffin knew he had to combat the massive serves from the bigger Cilic by using his speed and precision.
“I knew that on my serve I had to battle to win every service game, because sometimes he can serve bombs and in 10 seconds can win his games,” Goffin said, per Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times.
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The giant killer Goffin will have to do that again if he wishes to get to the finals, where the 6’5″ Raonic is waiting for him. The Canadian defeated Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 as he searches for his ninth career ATP title of his career at 25 years old.
The gameplan will be the same for Goffin. Raonic had seven aces in his straight-sets victory over Monfils to make his second straight Paribas Open semifinal.
“I’ve got to be very happy with how I competed today,” Raonic said, per the Canadian Press (via CBC). “I dealt with the situation well and gave myself lots of opportunities. And I did what counted the most — I took care of my serve.”
If Goffin wants to win this match, he’ll have to take the same approach in his match with Cilic and apply it here in the semifinals. Raonic’s seven-ace performance in the quarterfinals has to be on Goffin’s mind, and this match could get out of hand if Goffin doesn’t keep the first set close like he did against Cilic.
Azarenka vs. Williams
Serena Williams was last in the finals at Indian Wells in 2001. That year, she won it. That would also be the last time Williams would play at Indian Wells after abuse from the crowd during her final against Kim Clijsters.
Williams’ father also alleged that he had received racist abuse from members of the crowd, who had been angered after Venus Williams pulled out of the semi-final against her sister Serena. He also suggested that the abuse Serena received was in part motivated by her race.
Serena went on to beat Clijsters in the final, but she boycotted the event until this year due to the issues with the crowd.
According to WTA Insider, Williams hopes to “close the door” on the 2001 incident in Sunday’s final:
Serena Williams hopes to close the loop on @BNPPARIBASOPEN. pic.twitter.com/qzGbsHip6H
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 19, 2016
That was then, and this is now. What’s now is the fact that Williams has a chance at redemption from her loss in the Australian Open final. She’ll get that opportunity in the finals of the Paribas Open on Sunday against Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka won a marathon of a match that lasted slightly over two hours over Karolina Pliskova, 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-2 to reach the finals.
She’s won 18 singles titles in her career, but Azarenka is on the verge of one of her better moments in the last few years, per Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times:
Pointswise (650+), reaching the Indian Wells final is Victoria Azarenka’s best result since winning Cincinnati in 2013.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 19, 2016
The Australian Open showed Williams in a final is not a sure thing, so saying her winning this match is not an automatic lock. However, Williams has been nothing short of dominant in this tournament. She’s won each match in this tournament in straight sets.
While there’s always that off chance she loses, Williams hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down up to this point in this tournament.