By Justin Ross
One of the greatest rivalries in sports started in Miami 13 years ago, and it hasn’t lost a beat. Roger Federer is your 2017 Miami Open champion.
In 2004, a 17-year-old kid named Rafael Nadal took the court in Miami and defeated 22-year-old Federer in their first contest.
After 36 meetings, they returned to the same city that birthed their battle. Only this time, the Swiss Maestro got the better of his foe 6-3, 6-4.
“For me, the dream continues. It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks in Miami. The atmosphere here in Key Biscayne is very special. I’ve been coming to Miami for a long long time, and you guys always make it super nice and super special,” Federer told the crowd.
The victory marks Federer’s third Sunshine Double (2005, 2006, 2017), which requires winning Indian Wells and the Miami Open in the same year. He joins Novak Djokovic as the only players to accomplish the feat three times.
With wins at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, Federer now has three titles and a 19-1 record in 2017.
The Swiss native rises to 3-0 against his rival on the season with wins over Nadal in the Australian Open finals and the third round of Indian Wells. Nadal leads the all-time series 23-14.
As with every Federer-Nadal clash, this one was a classic. Judging by crowd noise, the fans favored Federer, but this was a feisty Miami audience that let the players know who they loved.
Federer opened the first set with a 2-1 lead, but in a critical fourth game, Nadal came back from 30-0 to make it 2-2.
The rivals traded games before Federer took three straight wins in a 6-3 finish. In the set, the two were a combined 1-of-10 on break points won. In 11 of Federer’s 13 previous wins against the Spaniard, the Swiss native won the first set.
In the second set, Nadal claimed two of the first three games. After more back-and-forth play, Nadal took a pivotal seventh game to go up 4-3. Federer answered with three straight victories again to take the set and the match.
ESPN’S Darren Cahill said Nadal historically beats Federer when he wins at least 65 percent of his first-serve points. He finished the match at 66 percent.
“It was a close match. I thought he had his chances in the first and second. On the big points, I thought I was just a little bit better. There was a lot riding on the match and it was great to play against Rafa again.”
Federer’s run to the finals includes wins over Frances Tiafoe, Juan Martin Del Potro, Roberto Bautista Agut, Tomas Berdych, and Nick Kyrgios. This is the Swiss star’s 91st ATP title, and he’s 7-0 against top 10 opponents on the season.
Nadal drops to 0-5 in the finals of the tournament, and his 13 appearances in Miami are the most without winning the title.
Dating back to 2010, the ‘Big Four’ of Andy Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have won 57 of the last 62 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments.
Both Nadal and Federer lead the ATP World Tour with 19 wins on the season.