Nothing can replace the excitement of Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal

Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem

The two, who have 37 Grand Slam wins between them, were due to meet for the first time since October 2017 in the 39th meeting of their intense rivalry, but the Spaniard has been forced to pull out and Swiss great Federer will progress to the final by default.

Nadal, who has struggled with knee injuries throughout his stellar career, was the second high-profile player to withdraw from the tournament.

Nadal isn't sure how severe the injury but has no doubt that he'll be ready for the Monte-Carlo Masters, beginning April 13.

Nadal stands in the way of Federer's pursuit of a record sixth title at Indian Wells. After an uninspiring performance against unseeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic parked his run in the third round and then turned his attention to doubles.

"It is not about only today", Nadal said in an emotional press conference after announcing his decision.

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Knee problems have dogged the 32-year-old Spaniard in recent years, and they cut short his 2018 season after the US Open in September.

Sunday's women's final features 18-year-old Canadian wild-card Bianca Andreescu against two-time major champion Angelique Kerber.

"You look back at what I did well there, but you can't just copy-paste and play exactly the same thing again", Federer said.

Now Thiem will play in his first final at the BNP Paribas Open, as well as his first Masters final on hardcourts, against a fresh-footed Federer eyeing career singles title No. 101. He led 5-3 and served it out, winning on his second match point with a backhand volley.

With the last-four clash taking place on Saturday, there must be a question mark over whether Nadal will be fit enough even to start the match, and certainly whether he will be able to bring his best against Federer. I hope I can play aggressive tennis against him. While on one hand, Roger is extremely fresh after spending not so much time on court, on the other Rafa got injured to his right knee when playing Khachanov in the quarterfinal.

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