In 2004, Rafael Nadal stunned world no. 1 Roger Federer in straight sets in Miami, announcing his arrival on the most significant scene at the age of 17. In the next 12 months, the young Spaniard claimed his first ATP title and the Davis Cup crown for Spain at the end of the year, playing well at the beginning of 2005 and winning back-to-back trophies on clay before skipping Indian Wells due to sickness.
The Spaniard returned in Miami and continued where he left in Brazil and Mexico, beating Rainer Schuettler, Fernando Verdasco, Ivan Ljubicic and Thomas Johansson to find himself in the first Masters 1000 semi-final. In the battle for the title match, Nadal took down other Spaniard David Ferrer 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 31 minutes, avenging a tough loss in Stuttgart last summer and moving into his third ATP final overall, becoming the second-youngest Masters 1000 finalist after Michael Chang in 1990.
Serving at 69%, Nadal lost 17 points in nine service games, facing two break chances and suffering one break to challenge Ferrer all the time. David couldn't match those numbers, holding without troubles only twice and getting broken four times from six opportunities offered to Nadal to end his run in the semis.
Both players had more unforced errors than winners and it was the younger Spaniard who controlled his shots more efficiently, dictating the pace from the baseline and counting numerous errors from his rival to seal the deal in style.
A teenager played a well-composed game, finding the right balance between defense and aggression and having a clear edge in the most extended exchanges to earn the win fair and square, dropping only five points on serve in the second set and marching over the top.
Ferrer was 11-8 in front in service winners but that wasn't enough to make the difference, with Nadal forging a 17-10 difference in the winners from the field, firing seven from forehand and backhand each and allowing David to land only four forehand winners.
The unforced errors were the crucial element of this clash, as David sprayed no less than 33, 21 of those from his forehand that let him down completely, often in the critical moments. Rafa reduced unforced mistakes to 18, hitting more forced errors (13-7) but doing more than enough to seal the deal in straight sets.
The youngster was 31-27 in front in the quickest rallies up to four strokes and they split the mid-range exchanges, winning 16 each and leaving the most advanced points to decide the winner. Nadal earned the triumph in that segment, taking 21 out of the 30 most prolonged exchanges to set the final clash against Roger Federer, hoping to beat the Swiss for the second time in a row in Florida.
"I was 17 when I faced Roger Federer here in Miami last year and it was one of my best matches. Since then, I have improved my serve and groundstrokes but that remains one of my finest displays. I played on an unbelievable level and I hope to meet him again in the final and show my improvements.
I will have a chance if I bring my best tennis and Federer doesn't; if we both compete at our best, he will win, as he is world no. 1."