After meeting just twice in the previous three seasons, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry for the third time this season and for the second time in a final. The Miami Open final on Sunday also sees the opportunity for Nadal to jump back into the top 4 with a victory.
Federer’s winning streak continued against Nick Kyrgios on Friday night, coming out on top in an epic three setter 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5). He had to rely on a first set Kyrgios collapse to take the lead after the Australian struck first with a break to lead 4-3 in the opener. Break chances were at premium with Federer not facing a break point in the final two sets. “I think I was able to do that on a couple of occasions, too, but at the end of the day stay concentrated, be focused point for point, make him work hard, and hopefully he runs out of gas towards the end, which never really happened. I was very happy with my level of play and it was an exciting match with some great shot making. ” Federer commented post match.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal’s win was as straight forward as expected, winning in straights against Fabio Fognini 6-1 7-5. With three breaks in the opening set, it looked like the match would be over in no time with the Spaniard outclassing Fognini. Fognini dug in in the second set, saving break points in multiple games although he was having no luck on the Nadal serve at all, winning just 5 of a possible 30 points in the second set. “Nadal is a 4 time losing finalist but isn’t reading too much into it when it comes to his chances this time round. I don’t think that’s going to affect in terms of helping me to win or helping me to lose. That’s a long time ago.” he commented. “It’s not more pressure for me to play here the final than playing in Monte-Carlo or playing in Indian Wells.”
Federer has been tested throughout this tournament with his draw remaining solid unlike Nadal’s who only had to play 2 seeded players to Federer’s 4. However he isn’t worried that his body will let him down when it comes to Sunday. “I actually woke up and felt great, so that was good. Throughout the match I didn’t have any problems, and now actually feel pretty good, so having a day off now is clearly nice to have. I could play tomorrow regardless, but it’s definitely good.”
The head to head will always remain way in Nadal’s favour but Federer has been nudging along to just a 10 match deficit at 13-23 after winning the past three, including the Australian Open final and the fourth round in Miami. The Miami match was expected to see Nadal reassert himself on a more favourable and slower hard court but that didn’t materialise at all with Federer cruising to victory. Federer had shown a tiny bit of weakness at times this week, most notably against Tomas Berdych, but will still fancy his chances to win backed up some big serving.
“It’s definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again. I’m thrilled for him that he came back as well as he did after the comeback and the struggles that he had last year. It feels like old times. We’re playing each other every week now. We can’t get enough of each other. Hopefully it’s not our last match.” said Federer.
Prediction – Roger Federer in straight sets