ATP Indian Wells Day Nine: Rafa and Roger correctly priced as heavy favourites

Tennis Players Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal
Roger and Rafa are competing to meet in tomorrow's semi-final...
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It's the second batch of men's singles quarter-finals at Indian Wells tonight, and with both Roger and Rafa in action, our tennis columnist Dan Weston looks at whether they can be beaten...

"Statistically, Nadal does have an edge over Federer and it will be interesting to see how they are priced for a potential semi-final tomorrow night."

Kecmanovic unlucky not to cover against Raonic

Last night's scheduled matches at Indian Wells underwhelmed, with our pick Miomir Kecmanovic just failing to cover the +4.5 games against Milos Raonic, despite putting up a decent account of himself. Both players had three break point chances, so perhaps we can consider ourselves a little unlucky that he was defeated by five games in the match.

Dominic Thiem progressed to the semi-finals, via a walkover, as Gael Monfils pulled out of their match. Therefore Thiem still leads their started match head to head series 4-0, although there have now been three further walkovers in matches featuring the duo.

Nadal with a statistical advantage over Federer

Moving on to tonight's action, the two tournament favourites are looking to make it through to the semi-finals, with Rafa available at [2.80] to win the tournament, and Roger narrowly behind at [2.90], on the Exchange. Federer has shortened following a facile victory over Kyle Edmund and Hubert Hurkacz's shock run to this stage, which means that the Swiss legend is now facing a perceived weaker opponent in tonight's quarter final - as opposed to either Kei Nishikori or Denis Shapovalov.

Federer is [1.09] to progress tonight, and while my model makes him a little bigger, it's not an actionable discrepancy, and certainly, it would be a major shock for Federer to be Hurkacz's latest giant-killing victim.

Statistically, Nadal does have an edge over Federer and it will be interesting to see how they are priced for a potential semi-final tomorrow night. Federer has held just below 92% on hard court in the last 12 months, and breaks opponents a shade over 21% (combined 113.1%) and this data isn't quite at elite-level, although obviously it is still hugely impressive compared to most players. It is, however, below Nadal and also the eliminated Novak Djokovic, and on hard court at least, the order of the elite three in the rankings looks absolutely reasonable.

Hurkacz capable of a good account of himself

Hurkacz has impressed on hard court this year, with his 103% combined hold/break percentage on the surface in 2019 not only better than would be anticipated from his current ranking, but also unflattered by his service and return point won percentages, which suggest this figure should be higher - he could have further upside in the not too distant future. As to whether he can test Federer, that's another question entirely - it wouldn't be a surprise at all if Roger played the key points better, but Hurkacz is certainly capable of putting up a respectable display, at the very least.

Khachanov needing to overcome serve issues to test Nadal

Later on in the evening is Rafa Nadal's meeting with Karen Khachanov, and the Spaniard is another heavy favourite to make the semi-finals. He's priced slightly bigger than Federer, at [1.21], which is understandable given the higher opposition quality, but again there's no pre-match value available here either.

Nadal is running at a combined hold/break percentage of just below 118% on hard court in the last 12 months, considerably higher than Khachanov's 106%, and the ability gap is also evidenced by the head to head series, which Nadal leads 5-0.

Across these historical meetings, Khachanov has struggled on serve against a premier returner, winning below 59% of points on serve, and Nadal's 12-1 set lead in their previous matches looks pretty justified - a player won't win many sets or matches winning such a low percentage of service points.

I'd be pretty surprised if Khachanov was able to reverse this trend tonight, and in all reality, I expect tomorrow's semi-final from the bottom half of the draw to be Federer against Nadal - the match that virtually all neutrals will be hoping for.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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