ThrowbackTimes Miami: Roger Federer masters Rafael Nadal to win title

Thirteen years after their first Miami clash, tennis giants Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal set their third meeting of the 2017 season, battling for the Florida crown. Like at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, Roger had the upper hand, winning the 37th chapter of their incredible rivalry following a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 35 minutes. It was the third Miami crown for the Swiss and the first since 2006, reducing his deficit to 23-14 in head-to-head matches against his nemesis and beating the Spaniard four times in a row for the first time in a career! It was the 19th victory for Federer 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, an excellent indicator in their duels as the winner of the opener went on the take 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. Miami 2017 was the 91st career title for the Swiss star and his 26th Masters 1000 trophy, standing two behind Nadal, who was on 28. With 4000 points collected in the three most significant events of the season, Roger was by far the best player in the ATP Race at 36, looking better and better to regain world no. 1 spot at some point that year. As for Nadal, Miami remained a cursed territory for him, losing the fifth final and missing another opportunity to add the missing Masters to his precious collection. The conditions were very tough, with a humidity of around 75% that 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 and better as the match progressed, taking the dominant role and imposing his strokes, especially with his mighty forehand.

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

Federer’s first serve worked like a charm, giving him a lot of free points or the opportunity to close the rally with the next groundstroke, fending off all four break chances in three different games to keep his service games intact and mount the pressure on the other side of the net. Nadal was nowhere near that pace, dropping 40% of the serve points and facing nine break chances, getting broken once in each set to find himself on the losing side. He entered the title clash much with more energy than Roger, spending less time on the court in the previous rounds and trying to draw the Swiss into longer rallies. Nevertheless, Federer found the 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 just 19 unforced errors, while Nadal stood on a negative 15-23 ratio, which wasn’t enough to get him a positive result.

Again, Nadal couldn’t exploit the familiar elements in his numerous wins over Roger, unable to hurt his 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. A former champion took a 30-19 advantage in the more prolonged rallies to forge the victory and make an already impressive season an even better one. Federer saved a break chance in the opener’s eighth game with a forehand winner and 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 found the way to grab a break with a deep backhand return at 4-4, moving over the top with a service winner a few minutes later to celebrate the first Miami Open crown in 11 years.

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