On March 28, 2004, world no. 1 Roger Federer and the upcoming youngster Rafael Nadal met for the first time in Miami, writing the first chapter of one of the greatest rivalries in the sport's history. At the age of 17 years and nine months, Nadal earned a magnificent 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 70 minutes, becoming 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 after knowing that Roger wasn't at his best, winning the title in Indian Wells a week before and struggling in the previous match against Nikolay Davydenko.
It was an incredible performance from the youngster who served at 81% and never faced a deuce or a break point in his games! 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 wasn't 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. At the same time, Roger counted to 16, in another excellent illustration of who was the more aggressive player and who was 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, demolished the opponent in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots (20-7) and clinching 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 Nadal in his early career, which gave him confidence and boost. "I think their first match was an important one, when he beat Federer at age 17 in Miami.
When you play a player who 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.