Indian Wells Men's Semi-Final Tips: Nadal meets Alcaraz in potential epic

It's semi-final day at the Indian Wells Masters and there are two intriguing clashes on tonight's schedule. Returning to preview the day ahead is Dan Weston...

Rublev yet to drop a set in the tournament

Action in California starts at 2000 UK time, and first on court are last night's winners, Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev. Fritz won in three sets over Miomir Kecmanovic, while Rublev defeated Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets.

Rublev is a solid favourite to make tomorrow's final, currently trading at 1.49 on the Exchange at the time of writing, having not dropped a set in the tournament so far. Fritz, on the other hand, has needed a decider in all of his last three to progress, including two final set tiebreaks. Rather unsurprisingly, Rublev has the better tournament data so far, both on serve and return.

This is also the case for longer-term data. Over the last 12 months on hard court, Rublev has won a higher percentage of service points, and in particular, has a solid edge on return, winning almost 4% more return points over this sample size. All things point to Rublev being a very justified solid favourite to take this match, which would leave Fritz exiting the event at the semi-final stage for the second year running.

Alcaraz bringing impressive data into clash with Nadal

However, the meeting between Fritz and Rublev is something of an appetiser to the main course of the evening. Following that first semi-final, that main course is Rafa Nadal versus Carlos Alcaraz Garfia. Whatever you want to call it - the main course following the appetiser, or the pretender versus the King, this really is a match which I'm sure the neutrals will be waiting for.

17 years Alcaraz's senior, Nadal won their previous meeting in Madrid last year on clay for the loss of just three games but at that point Alcaraz was ranked outside the top 100 before his meteoric rise. Since then, the Spaniard has risen into the top 20 and is 11-1 for the year, running at over 110% combined service/return points won percentage for the season so far.

That level is top drawer, and assuming Alcaraz can sustain it, would be a real test for Nadal. The elder Spaniard, though, is unbeaten all season, and this would be his 20th consecutive win of a highly productive 2022 for the King of Clay.

Nadal still a justified favourite ahead of the match

Alcaraz is yet to drop a set in the tournament so far and he looks destined for a long career at the top of the ATP Tour. His numbers are truly exceptional and while he was somewhat unproven away from clay prior to this event, his facile wins over the likes of Roberto Bautista-Agut, Gael Monfils and Cameron Norrie over the last week have shown he has the game on hard courts also.

When I first looked at the market pricing, I thought Nadal at 1.69 was pretty generously priced, but having looked at the numbers, I'm not convinced that is the case. Over the last 12 months on hard court, Nadal does have the edge - mostly from serve - but this promises to be a potential epic clash and a pretty competitive one at that. Nadal the justified favourite, but it's far from a foregone conclusion. 

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