Like Liverpool and Chelsea, who were drawn together in the Champions League for the fifth year in succession yesterday, Roger Federer and Andy Murray seem to be on a permanent collision course. When the world's No 2 and No 4 players face each other tonight in the semi-finals of the Masters Series tournament in the Californian desert resort of Indian Wells it will be their fifth competitive meeting in the last six months.
Since Federer won their US Open final meeting last September, Murray has beaten the Swiss at the Madrid Masters, the Tennis Masters Cup and the Qatar Open. Indeed, the Scot leads 5-2 in their head-to-head meetings.
Both have been in form this week after struggling with physical problems. Murray injured an ankle and then pulled out of Dubai with a virus that also forced him to miss Britain's Davis Cup tie against Ukraine. Federer had not played since the Australian Open because of a back injury.
Murray, who has had many of his best results on American hard courts, has enjoyed victories this week over Albert Montanes, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Tommy Robredo and Ivan Ljubicic, dropping only one set along the way. Federer has beaten Marc Gicquel, Ivo Karlovic, Fernando Gonzalez and Fernando Verdasco. In the other half of the draw last night's quarter-finals paired Rafael Nadal with Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic with Andy Roddick.
"He's a great player," Federer said as he looked ahead to facing Murray. "He's young, so you still have to figure him out a little bit. He's changing his game as time goes by. Every time you play him, he plays a bit different. Whereas for me, he knows what to expect. That's the advantage of a youngster. There are disadvantages in that they're a bit more inconsistent, but he's been very consistent, at a young age, which is impressive to see."
Murray said: "We know each others' games pretty well. Obviously if I want to beat him I need to play one of my best matches.
"It's important to serve solid and make a lot of balls and not feel like you have to do anything special on each point to win against him.
"If you watch the way that Nadal plays against him, it's not as though he's doing something unbelievable on every point. He just plays solid cross-court balls to the backhand and it obviously works."