Star-Spangled Blockbuster: Nadal vs. Federer
by Matt Fitzgerald|
The drought is over. After a six-year hiatus, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will play a match in the United States after the Spaniard defeated No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open Thursday night.
Nadal and Federer have met just twice before in the United States, with those meetings also coming in Miami. Then just 17, Nadal stunned Federer in straight sets in the third round in 2004 before Federer had his revenge in the final one year later, when the Swiss rallied from two sets down to win the first of his two Sony Ericsson Opens.
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No. 1 seed Nadal relied on steady serving and solid returning on key points to overcome the Czech, who fired 11 aces in the match. After breaking Berdych in his first two service games, Nadal did not convert another break point opportunity until the seventh seed’s final service game, when the Spaniard capitalised on his first of two chances to move ahead 5-3 in the third set. He consolidated the break by sealing the victory with a love service game.
“I didn't have a chance before with the return because he was serving fantastic,” reflected Nadal after getting past Berdych. “I had a positive attitude in the third set at the end, so when I had the chance, I converted. It was very important.”
Berdych had a great opening at the start of the last set, earning three break points, but Nadal saved them all with some clutch serving, which included a run of three straight aces to bail himself out of trouble. “My serve saved the match today. That's true,” Nadal said. “It's unusual for my serve to save me. But at the beginning of the set, that's [what happened] and that's a positive thing.”
The two-time Sony Ericsson Open finalist was troubled by a niggle in his right arm, for which he received on-court treatment, and addressed the issue in his post-match press conference. “I did a little bit of treatment now after the match, and I'm going to do it more tonight when I arrive at the hotel,” Nadal said.
“First time in my life [I felt something like this]… really strange. Especially since the left arm I could do aggressive movements, but the right was really strange. Seriously, I couldn't understand during the match what happened.”
Nadal’s victory also pits the Spaniard and Federer against each other in the semi-final stage of a regulation draw for the first time since the 2005 French Open, when Nadal defeated the Swiss in four sets en route to his first major title. “Very few times we’ve played in the semi-finals of a tournament. The rest of the matches are finals and important for big titles,” said Nadal.
“It's always special to play against him and have these matches, very important matches for both of our careers: finals of Roland Garros, finals of Wimbledon, of Australian Open, a lot of finals in Masters 1000s… that makes the rivalry very, very special. I don't know if rivals in the rest of the history of tennis played as many matches as we’ve played.”
Down 8-14 in their head-to-head meetings, Federer will be counting on his hard-court success, a surface where he owns a 5-2 advantage over the World No. 1.
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