Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the ATP event at Indian Wells with a knee injury to allow Roger Federer to advance to the final, where he will meet Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Fourth-seeded Federer received a walkover into the decider as Nadal pulled out shortly before their eagerly-awaited semi-final.
Seventh-seeded Thiem was a 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 victor over Milos Raonic in two hours and 31 minutes to reach his third ATP Masters 1000 final.
The meeting between Nadal and Federer, bidding for his 101st career title, would have been their 39th and the first since 2017.
"I warmed up today and I felt that my knee was not good to compete at the level I needed to compete in semi-final," Spain's Nadal said in a statement.
"It's tough for me to accept all these things that I'm going through in my career."
Federer was warming up on another court at the same time as Nadal and figured the match was on.
However, the world No.2 soon texted the Swiss it wasn't going to happen.
"It's a big letdown," said Federer, who came on court in khaki shorts and a grey cardigan to address fans.
"I know the anticipation is there from the crowd and also us players. I'm excited to be in the finals but not this way."
Nadal said he would now return home to Mallorca and would not play in the upcoming Miami Open. He hopes to return at the Monte Carlo Masters, which begins April 14.
It was just the fifth time in Nadal's career that he had conceded a walkover, and the first to Federer.
Nadal choked up discussing his withdrawal last fall and he appeared near tears on Saturday.
He admitted that he sometimes is sad because he feels at a disadvantage against his opponents due to his continued knee issues that force him to limit his practice and playing time before he gathered himself.
"It's not the moment to complain much. With all this stuff, I still where I am today," he said.
Thiem and Federer have split their four previous meetings, with only one going three sets.
Federer won the last time they played at the ATP Finals in London in November.