Miami Flashback: Roger Federer challenges Rafael Nadal. Who wins?


Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played their last two Masters 1000 finals in 2017. The penultimate came in Miami, and Roger used his form to topple a great rival and claim his first title in Florida since 2006. They met for the 37th time, and Federer earned a 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 35 minutes, lifting the trophy and celebrating his 14th win over Nadal. Roger beat Rafa for the fourth time in a row, never achieving that before! It was Federer’s 19th victory in 20 matches in 2017, making the best start of the season since 2006 and securing the Australian Open-Indian Wells-Miami treble for the second time. The Swiss was in a significant advantage after winning the opening set. It was an excellent indicator in their duels, with the winner of the opener scoring 29 victories in 37 encounters. Roger gathered momentum ahead of set number two, where he made the difference with a break at 4-4 that carried him through.

It was Roger’s 91st ATP title and the 28th at the Masters 1000 level. He collected 4000 points at three notable events within three months and led the ATP Race at 36. Miami remained Nadal’s cursed event, losing the fifth final since 2005 and missing another opportunity to add the missing Masters 1000 event to his precious collection. The conditions were very tough. A humidity of around 75% forced the players to seek their A-game in the first set, as we saw some sloppy tennis and the scoreboard that could have gone either way. Still, Roger played better as the match progressed, taking the dominant role and imposing his strokes, especially with his mighty forehand.

Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Miami Open final.

Federer’s first serve worked like a charm, giving him many free points or the opportunity to close the rally with the next groundstroke. The Swiss fended off all four break chances in three games to keep his service games intact and mount the pressure on the other side. Nadal was far from that pace. He dropped 40% of the serve points and faced nine break chances, getting broken once in each set to find himself on the losing side. He entered the title clash with more energy than Roger, spending less time on the court in the previous rounds and trying to draw the Swiss into longer rallies. Nonetheless, Federer found a way to fend that pressure off, playing close to the baseline and taking the ball as early as possible to keep the exchanges on his racquet. The Swiss fired 29 winners (19 from his forehand) and 19 unforced errors. Nadal stood on a negative 15-23 ratio, which was insufficient for a positive result.

Again, Nadal could not exploit the familiar elements in his numerous wins over Roger, unable to hurt the rival’s backhand and take advantage in the more extended exchanges with his forehand. It was a tight race in the shortest points up to four shots, with Roger winning 41 and Rafa 37 points. Federer took a 30-19 advantage in the more prolonged rallies to forge the victory and make an already impressive season even better. Roger saved a break chance in the opener’s seventh game with a forehand winner. He stole Nadal’s serve in the next one before closing the set with a service winner in game nine for 6-3 after 48 minutes. Battling hard for every point, Rafa repelled a break chance in the second set’s seventh game with a volley winner to remain in touch. Nonetheless, Federer grabbed a break with a deep backhand return at 4-4, forging the advantage and moving over the top with a service winner a few minutes later to celebrate his first Miami Open crown in 11 years.

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