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Roger Federer, vanquished by Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells, isn't surprised by the Spaniard's speedy return to form after a seven-month injury absence.
"He's not going to come back if he's not well," Federer said Thursday after falling 6-4, 6-2 to Nadal. "He's not going to come back half-broken.
"I expected him to tear through the clay. I expected him to be tough here, which he shows to be," Federer said.
Nadal, 26, launched his comeback in February with three clay-court tournaments in Latin America. He reached the final of the first and won the next two, improving with every match.
Questions lingered, however, as to how he would do in his first hard court tournament in almost a year -- questions Federer believes are being convincingly answered.
"He's a bit careful at times, his movement," said Federer, who knows Nadal's game well enough after 29 meetings to judge. "That's totally normal. He hasn't played for some time on hard court. I don't know if it's careful or if it's just getting used to it again."
Nadal's victory over Federer on Thursday set up a semi-final against Czech Tomas Berdych.
Federer was slowed by a sore back, but even so Nadal was pleased with his progress.
"Two weeks ago I didn't know if I can be here, and tomorrow I will be in semi-finals here," he said. "A lot of positive energy."
Despite some flashes of brilliance already in his comeback -- including his rout of compatriot David Ferrer in the Acapulco final on clay -- Nadal said he was taking nothing for granted.
"I go match by match, practice by practice, and I try my best in every moment," he said. "The important thing is to be healthy. And if that happens and I'm able to practice as much as I want, probably the comeback will be a little bit less difficult, no?"