Los Angeles, Mar 15 (EFE).- Spain's Rafael Nadal recorded the biggest win thus far in his comeback to the ATP Tour, downing a hobbled Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.
The 29th installment in one of the great rivalries in the history of tennis did not live up to the hype, as Federer struggled throughout Thursday night's contest with a back injury that restricted his normally fluid movement.
Nadal, the world No. 5, played aggressively from the outset and earned his first break point with Federer serving at 2-2 in the first set. Although he missed out on that opportunity, the Spaniard converted another chance two games later and never looked back.
The Swiss world No. 2 played defensively early on, made numerous unforced errors and looked to bail out of long rallies by employing the drop shot.
Nadal failed to convert two set points with Federer serving at 5-3, but he confidently served out the first set one game later.
For the set, the Spaniard hit 11 winners and committed eight unforced errors, while Federer struck four aces but made twice as many unforced errors as his opponent and did not earn a single break point.
Nadal came out on fire in the second set to build a quick 3-0 lead and the match seemed to be in his pocket, but Federer put up a final stand by getting one break back and then holding serve to trim the Spaniard's lead to 3-2.
Federer's momentum ended there, however, and Nadal swept the final three games to run his career record against the Swiss to 19-10.
"I played a fantastic first set, in my opinion. The second set was strange," Nadal said in the post-match press conference. "The second set, I think Roger didn't fight as usual. He probably had some problems and he didn't feel enough comfortable to keep fighting."
"Both of us tried to play our best. I played much better than yesterday (a three-set victory Wednesday night over Latvia's Ernests Gulbis). My movements today were much, much better than yesterday, so I'm very happy for that, especially after a long match yesterday, to be able to compete well the next day," the Spaniard said.
Federer, meanwhile, said the injury was no worse than in his round-of-16 match Wednesday against countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, which he pulled out 7-5 in the third set.
"(It was the) same as against Stan. I mean, I could play," Federer said. "I'm happy to be out there and able to compete. But it's obviously a small issue."
Even though Federer was nowhere near his best level, the win was a satisfying one for Nadal, who continued an extremely successful return to the Tour after a seven-month hiatus due to a knee injury and illness.
Nadal, who was forced to pull out of last year's London Olympics and U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open, started his comeback early last month at a small clay-court event in Viña de Mar, Chile, losing in the final there to Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.
But he hasn't lost a match since, winning two other Latin American clay-court events in Sao Paulo and Acapulco, Mexico, and making a smooth transition to hard courts with three match victories so far in Indian Wells.
Next up in Saturday's semifinals for Nadal will be Czech Tomas Berdych, who defeated South Africa's Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday and has reached the final four of Indian Wells without the loss of a set.
The other two quarterfinal matches - pitting world No. 1 Novak Djokovic against France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and world No. 3 Andy Murray against Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro - will be played on Friday.