What had been an impressive start to the season for Roger Federer in 2017 improved after he prevailed over Tomas Berdych 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, winning 17 of 18 games that season and advancing to Miami's last four to the first time in six years.
It was his 24th match and Roger's 18th win, also the seventh in a row. For the first time since Dubai 2014, Tomas claimed a set against the great rival, but like so many times before, he collapsed under pressure, losing the last set tiebreaker after blowing two match points at 6-4.
The match lasted one hour and 57 minutes (the last time they played a tie break in the third set was in Canada 2010), and almost nothing could separate the two rivals, as the result suggests. Tomas won two more points than Roger, but he just couldn't close the match on one of those match points that he won.
Roger was more efficient behind the second serve, while Tomas played better in the first, saving many break opportunities with service winners. The Swiss star had eight break opportunities, converting three to find himself in excellent position to seal victory in the ninth game of the final set and avoid the ensuing fight.
Nonetheless, Tomas rallied to push his opponent over the edge, not finding that last blow that could have sent him to the winning side. Both players had 37 winners (Tomas was excellent from both wings, Roger mainly from his right side), but the Czech made five more errors, 27 to Roger's 22.
Berdych had a slight advantage in the shorter points, and Federer responded by playing a little better in those longer exchanges to deliver a match to remember. To Roger Federer, as it is with most champions, the memories of his early years in tennis, days when he would struggle to find an autograph request, are the most treasured.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion recalled making the main draw at Basel, his home ATP event, way back in 1998.
Roger Federer on his match with Andre Agassi
Roger Federer revealed that it was eight-time Major championship winner Andre Agassi who he had to face in his first game after making the tournament draw.
“That (his first match in the Basel main draw) was against Andre Agassi, that was an incredible story for me. I was almost a child. I clearly lost,” Federer said. He said that as he got closer to his dream of reaching the main draw, he thought to himself that it could be the beginning of his career.
The rest, as they say, is history. “When I was 16 I ran out of there and thought, ‘Hmm, is this the beginning of my career? There was a lot of anticipation and nervousness,” the 39-year-old Swiss said.