Is it better to be rested or tested?

Is it better not to play at all the day before a final, or to win a tight three-setter which lasts two and a half hours, but which also ends with you playing some of the most clutch tennis of your career? We’ll have a better idea of the answer after this final.

Federer will be rested. Not only did his semifinal opponent, Rafael Nadal, withdraw from their Saturday showdown, Federer cruised through his first four matches, in which he didn’t drop a set or face anyone in the Top 20. Thiem was the one who took, and passed, a serious test against Milos Raonic in the semis. But he has also had the benefit of a walkover in Indian Wells, from his quarterfinal opponent, Gael Monfils.

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Rested vs. Tested: Previewing a Roger Federer vs. Dominic Thiem final

Rested vs. Tested: Previewing a Roger Federer vs. Dominic Thiem final

Hopefully, that combination means both of these guys are feeling good for the final, because this is a match-up we haven’t seen often enough. Perhaps because Federer has skipped the clay season the last two years, and Thiem is at his best on clay, the Swiss and the Austrian have played just four times. They’ve split those meetings 2-2, while Federer has won both of their meetings on hard courts. Federer won a routine straight-setter last time they played, at the ATP Finals in London in November.

A slow hard court like the one in Indian Wells would seem to be the ideal place for these two to face off. This should also be an ideal moment. Federer has won his last nine matches, while Thiem was forced to lift his game to its summit to fend off Raonic. If Thiem can serve with the same intelligent mix of paces and placements, and scramble around to hit his forehand with the same Nadal-esque gusto that he showed on Saturday, he’s got a shot. If he can’t, he doesn’t.

Winner: Federer