Originally posted on Fox Sports  |  Last updated 3/15/13
A packed house of 16,000 turned out on warm desert night to see two of the greatest tennis players in history meet for the 29th time, but the match never had a chance of turning into an epic. Rafael Nadal, playing well above expectations in his first hard-court tournament since returning to the ATP from knee problems, reached the semifinal of the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Roger Federer on Thursday. The first time they met, back in 2004 at Miami on a hard court similar to this, Nadal sprang a surprise by winning, 6-3, 6-3. As soon as it became obvious that Federer's back was going to be a much bigger factor than Nadal's knee, there was no surprise this time. By his normal fleet-footed standards, Federer couldn't move. This might not have been obvious to the uninitiated, but by the time the second Spanish backhand had been slapped back cross court with Roger nowhere near it, the situation was clear. Federer has had back problems throughout the past few years, but...
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