On March 28, 2004, world no. 1 Roger Federer and the upcoming youngster Rafael Nadal met at the Miami Masters, writing the first chapter of one of the greatest rivalries in our sport's history. At 17 years and nine months, Nadal earned a magnificent 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 70 minutes to become the youngest player with a win over world no.
1 player since the formation of the ATP Tour 14 years earlier. Only a few could have predicted this outcome, even knowing that Roger was not at his best. The Swiss won the Indian Wells title a week before and struggled in the previous match against Nikolay Davydenko here in Florida.
All that aside, it was an incredible performance from the youngster, serving at 81% and never facing a deuce or a break point! Federer was miles from those numbers, playing against seven break chances and suffering three breaks to propel Rafa into the last 16.
Roger had 16 service winners, but that was not enough to keep him safe, with Nadal taking advantage in the rallies and pushing the rival's backhand to the limits. Rafa had a 14-11 lead in the winners from the field, hitting with more variety than his opponent, who landed only two winners outside his forehand.
The Swiss sprayed 17 unforced errors, 12 from his most reliable wing, while Nadal stayed on 14. The Spaniard forged the most significant difference in the forced errors segment, hitting just three from his backhand.
17-year-old Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in Miami 2004.
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, as he demolished the opponent in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots (20-7) and clinched 11 of the longest 16 points to earn one of the most impressive victories of his young career.
Nadal's coach Francisco Roig said it was a significant triumph for young Nadal that gave him confidence ahead of the upcoming challenges. "I think their first match was important when he beat Federer at 17 in Miami. When you face a player you theoretically have to beat to become No.
1, and you have a great match and win on the first try, it gives you a lot of confidence to believe you can win in the next matches," Francisco Roig said.