20 years ago the legend began: Federer and Nadal started their rivalry

On March 28, 2004 the Swiss and the Spaniard faced each other for the first time in Key Biscayne

by Lorenzo Ciotti
20 years ago the legend began: Federer and Nadal started their rivalry
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20 years ago Key Biscane was the place of destiny, the tournament where the new tennis era was shaped. As in the greatest fairy tales or adventures, that place was the mother of the greatest rivalry in the history of sport. Two giants, aged 22 and 17 at the time, competed in Florida.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal. Today, March 28, 2024, exactly 20 years have passed since their first match played in Miami. Or rather in Key Biscayne which was then the home of Florida's ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

That match became the first of a long series, the first of an extraordinary rivalry between the two champions. Probably among the most loved in the history of tennis. The venue for the game was Center Court at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne.

It was a third round match. Roger Federer was the world number 1, he was 22 years old and had won Wimbledon the year before and in January 2004 his first Australian Open in the final against Marat Safin, as well as having also just returned from success at Indian Wells.

Rafael Nadal was a promising young player of 17 years old and was about to enter the world of tennis. He was number 34 in the world.
The success that day went - decidedly surprisingly - to Rafael Nadal, who on 28 March 2004 beat Roger Federer with a score of 6-3 6-3 in an hour and nine minutes of play.

That day Nadal achieved the most important victory of his career up to that point. Today, to commemorate this twentieth anniversary, at 2pm Sky Sport Tennis will broadcast the full version of the match. Already then, Federer praised Nadal in the press conference for his great performance.

Federer and Nadal, the beginning of a legend

Throughout their career, the personal relationship between Federer and Nadal, despite the heated rivalry on the court, has always been extremely cordial. And marked by mutual respect and true friendship. A rivalry that has enthralled and divided the fans into two opposing factions but which has led to an exponential growth in interest in tennis throughout the world.

In that edition of Key Biscayne Nadal was eliminated in the next round by Fernando Gonzalez with the tournament won by Andy Roddick.
But that's not all: because fans in Key Biscayne will always remember the 2005 final between Federer and Nadal again. A year later the two players crossed rackets again and it was anything but a trivial match.

Success this time for Federer who took revenge but came back from two sets to zero (back then the ATP Master 1000 finals were played in the best of 5 sets) and closed the final with a score of 2-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-1.

That was the beginning of the legend.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal found themselves together again after that historic image of September 2022 which portrayed them hand in hand in tears, on the day of the Swiss Maestro's farewell to tennis at the Laver Cup.

The 42-year-old from Basel went to visit the Spanish tennis player at his Academy in Manacor. A tour of the facility, talking about the times that were and those that are now, times in which tennis is still in good hands.

As proof of the reunion between the two tennis players who have won 42 slams in total, a photo portrays them smiling together with one of the kids from the Majorcan tennis player's Spanish Academy, who will surely have been envied by all their peers.

Nadal then personally posted some shots of the match on his Instagram profile, accompanied by this description: “It's a pleasure to have you here with me today, my friend. Thank you for visiting and hope to see you again very soon."

A rather nostalgic moment for the two tennis players and all the fans, mindful of the exploits of two legends who made the history of racket sport.