But having pulled one of the biggest and most vocal crowds of the week for his match against defending champion Novak Djokovic, and beating the Serb for the second time in as many weeks, without facing a break point, the charismatic 21-year-old announced his withdrawal from the tournament with illness.
Beginning his tweet with “I’m so sorry but I can’t play the @bnpparibasopen today,” the statement continued:
“Unfortunately, I am unable to play today due to sickness. At this stage, we think it’s food poisoning, and I’m praying it’s nothing more. After a restless night of being sick I have nothing left and to play a great champion like Roger, I need to be at my best to have a chance. I don’t take this decision lightly, these are the matches we train for but I’m in no fit state to take to the court.
“I’m sorry to the fans that I’m unable to take to the court but I have to put my health first, and I hope you understand. I want to wish Roger the best of luck for the rest of the tournament and thank everyone for their support so far here at the BNP Paribas Open. I will definitely be back. Thank you.”
Federer, having already practised during the morning, tweeted back: “Hope you feel better @NickKyrgios”
They were scheduled to play at midday in the heat of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and tickets had been selling like hot cakes as fans decided to make the trip for what promised to be a blockbuster.
Of course, the popularity and reputation of Federer was alone a draw to the fans. Four of his 24 Masters titles have come in California’s magnificent desert event, and his 55 match-wins at Indian Wells, along with his overall 333 Masters wins, are records. He has played 42 Masters finals, 75 Masters quarter-finals, and the walkover takes him to his 57th Masters semi-final—almost half of all his Masters appearances dating back more than 17 years.
And if anyone doubted his form, his confidence and his hunger for more, they needed to look no further than his comeback from knee surgery and a six-month absence to beat four top-10 players and claim his first Grand Slam in four and a half years in Australia just six weeks ago.
This week, Federer’s aggressive hard-court wins continued: not a set lost, not a game broken, and faced with only one break point—against Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
But his young opponent is also genuine box office, seeded No15 here but tipped by many for far greater things. And when playing his best, it is easy to see why. A free spirit, with tennis to match, he has power, flair, showmanship and boldness—though his abandon has often brought errors, frustration and worse, including a brief ban last year for ‘poor effort’.
But he is a man who made the quarters of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open while still 19. He won three titles last year, including the prestigious ATP500 in Tokyo, and had become one of a very exclusive club: He had beaten Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in his first matches against them.
And judging from the serving of both he and Federer thus far in Indian Wells, their match could have come down to their serving performance again—perhaps even another three-tie-break thriller.
As it is, Federer advances to the semi-finals, what looked a mountain of a task when he was drawn into the same quarter as Nadal, Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro as well as Kyrgios—where he will take on American Jack Sock.
Before that, Federer came onto court for an interview in front of the depleted centre court crowd before tournament director Tommy Haas and Vasek Pospisil played some exhibition games.
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