In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I didn't expect to play the final against Roger Federer'

Tennis - The young Spaniard advanced to his first Masters 1000 final in Miami 2005, standing two points away from beating the Swiss

by Jovica Ilic
In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I didn't expect to play the final against Roger Federer'

Due to injuries, Rafael Nadal couldn't make progress through the ATP list in 2004, skipping three months and still winning the first ATP title in Sopot in August. At the end of the year, the youngster delivered an important point for Spain over the USA in the Davis Cup final in Seville, celebrating the title with his teammates and preparing for a strong assault in 2005.

Nadal didn't play at his best in Doah and Auckland, fixing that at the Australian Open where he advanced into the fourth round at Majors for the first time, losing to Lleyton Hewitt in five sets and gathering boost ahead of South American clay-swing that saw him winning crowns in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco.

An illness prevented Rafa fro competing in Indian Wells, heading to Miami on the verge of the top-30 and showing his best tennis again to reach the final at the event where he stunned world no. 1 Roger Federer a year ago. Rafa toppled Rainer Schuettler, Fernando Verdasco, Ivan Ljubicic, Thomas Johansson and David Ferrer to become the second-youngest Masters 1000 finalist after Michael Chang, setting another clash with Roger Federer and seeking the first notable crown of his young career.

After an incredible battle, Roger prevailed 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 in three hours and 43 minutes, producing one of his finest comebacks after trailing two sets to love and 4-1 in the third! The Swiss took the third set tie break after being 5-3 down, gathering boost and never looking back in the rest of the clash, keeping the pressure on the other side of the net all the time and sealing the deal in style in the decider.

Nadal was two points away from victory at 5-4 in the third set and again in the tie break, unable to make that one last push and beat Roger for the second straight year in Miami. Federer had his chances in the second set but Nadal remained calm, fending off two set points and taking it in the tie break to move just a step away from the crown, looking better and better after forging that lead in the third.

With no room for errors, Roger endured all the efforts and played well when it mattered the most, surviving the tie break and never looking back to secure the title. "I played on clay before heading to Miami and I didn't expect to reach the final.

It is my first Masters Series title match and it came as a little surprise. I'm playing well and I hope it will not be my last final at this level."

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer