Miami - The greatest rivalry in tennis resumes on Sunday in
the final of the Miami Open when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meet at the
venue where it all began.
It was 13 years ago, at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne where
the two first faced each other on a court in an ATP Tour event.
A 17-year-old Nadal beat his Swiss opponent, already the
world number one, 6-3, 6-3 in the third round of the tournament.
One year later, on April 3, 2005, the pair met again in
Miami, this time in the final of the tournament when Federer came back from two
sets down to win the five-set contest.
Federer says the memory of what he calls "that epic
match" remains vivid and was a crucial chapter in his development as a
"The final was unbelievable. It was a turning point in
my career, to be quite honest. For me to be able to focus for, I don't know how
long we played, maybe four hours, smashing forehand after forehand down the
line, I felt like I had to learn how to fight in matches, and there I showed it
to myself and my team that I could do it," he said.
"It was against somebody who ended up being my biggest
rival. It's definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again.
"Of course I'm thrilled for him as well that he came
back as well as he did after the comeback, the struggles that he had last
year," Federer added.
Nadal leads the head-to-head meetings 23-13 but they are
tied 9-9 on hard courts and Federer has had the better of the most recent meetings,
triumphing in the Australian Open final in January and the fourth round at
Indian Wells last month.
"It feels like old times. We're playing each other
every week now. We can't get enough of each other," joked Federer.
"Hopefully it's not our last match."
It is the first time Miami will have a final between two
players over 30 but no-one is expecting anything but the highest quality
intense competition, especially with Federer enjoying such a rich run of form.
After a six month layoff from injury, the Swiss has returned
looking as good as ever. After winning his 18th Grand Slam title at the
Australian Open he won at Indian Wells and on Friday he came through an
extraordinary battle with Nick Kyrgios, edging a contest decided by three
Nadal has had an easier route to the final enjoying a
relatively straightforward two-set semi-final win over Italian Fabio Fognini on
He is also fired up by the fact that while this will be his
fifth Miami final, he has yet to win the Florida tournament.
"It just helps to add something important for me and
that's it," Nadal said.
Federer will start as favourite but as he looks to complete
the Indian Wells/Miami sweep for the third time says he didn't expect to go all
the way in his second straight event.
"(I thought) semis would be an unbelievable run,"
he said. "Here we are in the finals and I get a chance to win the
"Still I feel like there is a mountain to climb in
Rafa. He's not won it yet before. He's definitely feeling fresher than I feel
right now. But that's not a problem. I'll be ready on Sunday."