On March 28, 2004, world no. 1 Roger Federer and the upcoming youngster Rafael Nadal met for the first time in Miami, writing the first chapter of one of the greatest rivalries in the sport’s history. At 17 years and nine months, Nadal earned a superb 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 70 minutes, becoming the youngest player with a win over world no. 1 player since the ATP Tour’s formation 14 years earlier. Only a few could have predicted this outcome, even after knowing that Roger wasn’t at his best after winning the Indian Wells title a week before and struggling in the previous match against Nikolay Davydenko. It was an incredible performance from the youngster, who served at 81% and never faced a deuce or a break point in his games!
Federer was miles from those numbers, playing against seven break chances and suffering three breaks to propel Rafa into the last 16, where he faced Fernando Gonzalez. Federer had 16 service winners, but that wasn’t enough to keep him safe, with Nadal taking advantage in the rallies and pushing the rival’s backhand to the limits. The Spaniard had a 14-11 lead in the winners from the field, hitting with more variety than his opponent, who had only two winners outside his forehand. The Swiss sprayed 17 unforced errors, 12 from his most reliable wing, while Nadal stayed on 14, mainly thanks to his backhand.
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3 in their first match in Miami 2004.
The Spaniard forged the most significant difference in the forced errors segment, hitting just three from his backhand. At the same time, Roger counted to 16, in another excellent illustration of the more aggressive player and the leading figure in the exchanges. Federer had a slim edge in the shortest points up to four strokes (31-27) thanks to those service winners. Still, everything else was on Nadal’s side, demolished the opponent in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots (20-7) and clinching 11 of the longest 16 points to earn one of the most impressive victories of his young career.
“I was afraid that Roger could win like 6-1, 6-1 but was looking forward to this encounter, facing world no. 1. I stepped on the court with a positive attitude and not with the one that would make me happy after winning a couple of games. I knew that the most important thing is not to let him play his own game and that I also had to dictate the rallies and keep the points on my racquet,” Rafael Nadal said.