Djokovic held off No. 7 seed, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(2), 7-6(2) while Nadal stopped No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-3 in the earlier semifinal.
Djokovic served for the first set at 5-4, but Tsonga broke serve, but the Serb recovered to win the set in the tiebreak.
“Well, it was definitely very challenging to play in these kind of conditions with Jo that was in form this week,” Djokovic said.
“I thought, you know, being a break up and couple of break points for double break in the first set, you know, I felt playing well, very solid; had the match under control; serving 5-4, 30-Love.
“All of a sudden, not putting a first serve in. He started mixing up with a slice and decided to play a bit different tactically. That got me off a little bit, you know, the balance and the rhythm.
“He started playing better. He started swinging more freely from the forehand corner, especially. Yeah, it was very close.
“But, you know, I take positives out of today’s match, the fact that I have played somebody that was feeling good throughout the week, somebody that serves very, very big and plays very, you know, quick and efficient, precise forehands, you know, that gave me a lot of trouble today to win in straight sets and to win in two tiebreaks, I think it’s gonna help definitely my confidence and, you know, mentally I will take that.”
Djokovic, who earned his 20th win of the year, has only dropped one set during Indian Wells this year and that was to Bjorn Fratangelo.
In an era dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Tsonga was asked to compare them: “They all are really good. I mean, if you have to count Grand Slam, it’s maybe Federer. If you have to count number of title, it’s maybe Federer.
“And then you have two guys who are just amazing. Rafa was the best on clay for 10 years, and Novak, he’s now the actual best player, I think, because he’s No. 1 since a while now. So it’s tough to compare.
“Yeah. Anyway, they will be part of history, and for sure for a long time. Yeah, they’re good players.”
In Nadal’s quarterfinal match, the Spaniard, rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the first set, taking five out of the next six games to close it. Nadal took a break lead in the second set in which his Japanese opponent broke him right back, to make it 4-3 in Nadal’s favor. Nadal won the next two games to seal the match.
“I never thought impossible for Kei playing at this level,” Nadal said. “He’s an amazing player, one of the best players, and he’s able to play at highest level, no?
“He started so quick hitting all the balls very well, very aggressive, and serving great, no?
“Then I think he started to miss some first serves and I was returning very well the second set serve, returning very aggressive. That was so important, I think, in my opinion. The development of the game, no?
“So my return was so important, and at the same time I think I served — my serve was enough good for this match.”
“I think the beginning I was stepping in little more and was hitting using my forehand,” Nishikori said. “My serve was hitting really good serve, first serve, second serve, and maybe he start hitting more deep. I start backing up a little more.
“You know, I think everything changed after, between that first set. Yeah, thought I had couple chances first set and second set, too, but, yeah, some unforced errors. And, yeah, he played good tennis.”
Nadal is set to play Djokovic for a place in the Indian Wells final. He spoke about the potential match-up with the Serb. The last time they played in Doha, Nadal only won three games.
“I think the (Doha) result was so easy. The game was not that easy, no?
“But is obvious that Novak played unbelievable, and when he plays that way, so difficult to stop him. Nothing to say about that match than offer congratulations to him. Tomorrow is another day. He’s a clear favorite because he’s winning all the matches almost every time.
“So I am here to, as I said, enjoy the match of tomorrow, to enjoy the victory of today against a great player. That’s something important for me. Semifinals before the tournament start is a very positive result for me. Tomorrow is an opportunity to play against another top player and enjoy that fact.”
Djokovic talked about the Doha result: “Well, that’s definitely one of the best matches I have played against Rafa. I will try to take a close look at that match and what I have done right.
“But, again, you know, we have to consider the different — completely different conditions. We played in Doha on a bit quicker surface. The balls were not bouncing as high. It was night. It was colder than here.
“Tomorrow is going to be very warm. Ball bounces very high, which he, you know, prefers, because the spin, rotation that he generates with his shots is, you know, really big.
“The court is picking that rotation up here with the bounce. He likes the conditions, actually. We played against each other here several times and always close matches.
“Well, I’m hoping I can deliver my best game tomorrow.”
Djokovic on playing Nadal:
“Well, completely different matchup against most of the players that I play against this week. He’s a great competitor, a great fighter. He’s been getting himself out of trouble a few times this week and showing why he’s one of the best players in the history of the game.
“You know, he never gives up. He always makes you play an extra shot. Always makes you earn the win. You know, I’m going into tomorrow’s match knowing what’s expecting me and I know how to get ready.
“I won the last couple times we played against each other, so maybe that can give me a slight mental advantage coming into the court.”
“But, again, everything is open. It’s semifinals. We both have won multiple times titles here, and hopefully we can come up with some good tennis.”
Nadal goes into his semifinal match against Djokovic with a 23-24 record. The last time Nadal defeated Djokovic was int eh 2014 final of Roland Garros, the French Open.
Djokovic is looking to win a fifth BNP Paribas Open title, while Nadal is looking to get his fourth trophy there.