Rafael Nadal on first win over Roger Federer: 'I will never forget it'



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Rafael Nadal on first win over Roger Federer: 'I will never forget it'

Rafael Nadal has played some of the most exciting matches in tennis history, always giving his 120% and pushing rivals to the limits in every point. The Spaniard has won 20 Major titles and 36 Masters 1000 crowns, standing in the top-10 for over 16 years and still feeling eager to chase notable titles despite many setbacks with injuries.

One of the matches that Nadal will never forget is the 2004 Miami clash against the newly-crowned world no. 1 Roger Federer when the 17-year-old toppled the king of men's tennis 6-3, 6-3 in 70 minutes. A week before, Roger claimed the Indian Wells title and had only a few days to recover physically and prepare for Miami, feeling signs of illness and fever and never looking good on the court.

We should not take anything from Nadal's triumph, as it certainly was an impressive one, playing with no sign of nerves and doing just about everything right on the court. Rafa did massive damage with his topspin forehands that bounced high and took time off from Federer's shots, as the Swiss never settled into his usual rhythm.

The Spaniard's defense was already one of the best in the business, building a fortress around the baseline that was almost impossible to penetrate. He did not lean only on that, though, attacking whenever he could and playing well-constructed points at the net.

Although Nadal struggled with his backhand, that could not hurt him much since Roger played below his level and experienced a somewhat unexpected loss.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played for the first time in Miami 2004.

Nadal's serve gave him a considerable advantage, never facing a break chance or deuce and creating room to play more aggressively on the return.

Rafa served at 81% and won 31 out of 39 points after landing the first serve in, impressive numbers for a player whose initial shot was not a prime weapon in his arsenal. Nadal's second serve worked like a charm (he had to play just nine points on weaker serve, though), losing 12 points in nine service games, something he could have only dreamed about before the start of the match.

On the other hand, Roger could not follow those numbers behind his serve, dropping almost 40% of the points and playing against seven break chances to suffer three times and propel Nadal over the top. Federer had 16 service winners, with Rafa returning the other serves with no troubles and gaining the immediate advantage in the rallies, sending the balls back to Roger's backhand, especially in the second set.

Nadal finished the encounter with nine service winners and a 14-11 advantage in the winners from the field, hitting with more variety than his rival, who had only two winners outside his forehand. The Swiss sprayed 17 unforced errors, 12 from his more substantial wing, while Nadal stayed on 14, mainly thanks to his backhand.

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.

Thanks to those service winners, Federer had the edge in the shortest points up to four strokes (31-27), but everything else was on Nadal's side. Rafa demolished the opponent in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots, taking 20 from 27 of those and clinching 11 of the longest 16 points to make his victory clean as a whistle.