Miami Flashback: Rafael Nadal, 17, stuns Roger Federer
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 3427
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer first met in Miami 2004, with the 17-year-old stunning the newly-crowned world no. 1! Rafa made giant steps toward a place in the top-100 in 2003, kicking off the following season from inside the top-50.
The Mallorca native was a perfect mixture of incredible physical strength at such a young age, absolute determination, talent and commitment to improving in every match. Rafa reached his first ATP final at the start of 2004 in Auckland and scored some notable wins at the Australian Open, Milan, Dubai, and Indian Wells, still at 17.
Nadal defeated former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic in the Miami second round to meet world no. 1 Roger Federer for the first time on March 28. At 17 years, nine months and 25 days, Nadal scored a sensational 6-3, 6-3 triumph in swift 70 minutes.
Thus, a teenager became the youngest player since the beginning of the ATP Tour in 1990 with a win over world no. 1. Despite the young Spaniard's evident talent and iron will, no one could have seen this coming, not against the player who conquered the Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells!
A week before, Roger claimed the Indian Wells title and had only a few days to recover physically and prepare for Miami. He felt signs of illness and fever and never looked good on the court. The Swiss barely survived a challenge from Nikolay Davydenko in the previous round and had nothing left in the tank for a teenager, bowing out in straight sets and sending the opponent into the last 16.
We should not take anything from Nadal's triumph, though, as he made an impressive one. He played with no sign of nerves and did everything right on the court, from choosing the right tactics to throwing everything on Roger.
Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in straight sets in Miami 2004.
Rafa did massive damage with his topspin forehands that bounced high and took time off from Federer's shots, keeping the opponent out of his comfort zone and drawing many errors.
The Spaniard's defense was already one of the best in the game, building a fortress around the baseline that was almost impossible to penetrate, even for a fine attacker like Roger. He did not lean only on that, though, attacking whenever he could and playing some well-constructed points at the net.
Nadal mixed up his shots nicely and kept the rallies on his racquet, never allowing Federer to step in and take charge with his forehand. Nadal struggled with his backhand, although that could not hurt him much since Roger played below his level, experiencing an unexpected loss and setting eyes on the clay swing.
Nadal's serve gave him a considerable advantage in the first encounter against Federer. The Spaniard faced no deuces or a break point, creating room to play more aggressively on the return. Also, Rafa served at 81% and won 31 out of 39 points after landing the first serve in.
He produced impressive numbers for a player whose initial shot was not a prime weapon in his arsenal. Nadal's second serve also worked like a charm, playing just nine points on the weaker serve. Rafa lost 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 initial shot. He dropped almost 40% of the points and played against seven break chances, getting broken three times and propelling Nadal over the top. Roger had 16 service winners, and Rafa returned the other serves with no troubles.
He gained an instant advantage in the rallies and sent 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 thanks to his backhand. The Spaniard forged the most significant difference in the forced errors segment, hitting three from his backhand.
At the same time, Roger counted 16, in another excellent illustration of who was the more aggressive player and who had the upper hand in the rallies. Thanks to those service winners, Federer had a slight edge in the shortest points up to four strokes (31-27).
However, everything else was on Nadal's side. The young gun demolished the opponent in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots (20-7) and clinched 11 of the longest 16 points to make his sensational victory clean as a whistle.