The springtime hard-court events are almost over on the ATP Tour. Heading into the final of the 2017 Miami Masters, a couple things remain certain. The #LostGen players (ie. Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, and David Goffin) on tour will remain lost when it comes to winning a Masters Series title. Furthermore, the #NextGen players will be blocked from a title as well, something that was assured on Friday night when Nick Kyrgios lost a coin toss in the Miami semifinals to Roger Federer. Federer will now face Rafael Nadal, who beat Fabio Fognini in the other semifinal, for the title in Miami in what will be a Sunday championship finale.
Federer and Nadal will meet in the Miami final as the top-two players on year-to-date rankings on tour. The last time they met was in Indian Wells earlier this month when Federer defeated Nadal comfortably in straight sets. They also met more famously in the final of the Australian Open a couple months ago, with Federer winning that match as well. The Swiss Maestro has a three-match winning streak active against Nadal, one that has improved the complexion of their head-to-head series from Federer’s point of view a bit. The Spaniard does still lead their series 23-13, a gap that Federer will be looking to mitigate some more.
Roger on Rafa: "It feels like old times, playing each other every weekend." pic.twitter.com/GPReOJjW86
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) April 1, 2017
When it comes to getting into contention for the top ranking, the Miami Masters final is very important for both Federer and Nadal. The match represents the end of the hard-court events until post-Wimbledon with clay-court events dominating the tour until that time. The clay is Nadal’s preferred surface by far, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him pick up multiple titles on dirt in the months ahead.
However, the clay-court season isn’t lengthy on the ATP Tour, and so the Spaniard will need to get some titles on the hard-court surface as well if he wants to get back into the picture for the top ranking. A title in the Miami Masters would serve Nadal well from that point of view. Federer, on the other hand, needs the Miami title precisely because he can’t count on his game to hold up when the tour switches to clay, historically his weakest surface. Both Federer and Nadal need to get all of the ranking points and titles that they can possibly get before Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray return to form, something that is bound to happen at some point this year.
As has often been the case when Nadal and Federer have met in the past, the ‘Fedal’ match looks like an open one with points and counterpoints in favor or against both players. For starters, it is difficult to look past Federer due to the start that he has enjoyed this season. He still only has one loss, that coming to Evgeny Donskoy. The counterpoint is that Nadal has been sizzling in Miami over the last several days. Philipp Kohlschreiber managed to take a set off of Rafa, but no one else has in the tournament. Furthermore, when discounting the one bad set, Nadal has only been extended to one tiebreaker. A fair amount of the time he has been winning his sets with three games or fewer against him. It truly has been a dominant tournament for Nadal so far.
Federer, on the other hand, has had some major squeakers in Miami. His last two matches against Kyrgios and Berdych were both final-set-tiebreaker affairs that Fed only won by the minimum. Additionally, Roberto Bautista-Agut extended Federer to two close tiebreakers in the round of sixteen. If those matches take any kind of toll on Federer heading into the final, then it might be enough to tilt a close match in the Spaniard’s favor.
Nadal, five years younger than Federer, should certainly be the fresher of the two players on Sunday. A counterpoint to that is that you would have expected Nadal to have had more energy in Melbourne Park too. However, that match went Federer’s way.
“It feels like old times, playing each other every weekend,” a nostalgic Federer said in regard to playing Nadal for the third time already this season.
I guess the best thing to do with this one is not to try and predict it, but to just enjoy it.