Tennis icon Roger Federer took a trip down memory lane earlier this week and discussed his first ever loss to Rafael Nadal in Miami 15 years ago today (March 28).
The Swiss legend was no match for the Spanish teenager back in 2004, as Rafa overwhelmed the top-seeded Wimbledon champion 6-3, 6-3 in the third round of the formerly known Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami.
Nadal’s performance was spectacular from start to finish.
He struck the ball with remarkable ferocity and dominated his service games with pin-point accuracy.
The Spaniard was simply too quick for Federer back then and hit his forehands with such colossal pace and spin, he had his Swiss opponent parked so far behind the baseline, he might as well have been in the stand with spectators.
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Nadal – five years Federer’s junior – became known as the King of Clay after his dominant displays on the red shale, which led to his record breaking 11 French Open titles.
Federer was equally impressive on grass at Wimbledon, where the duo played debatably the greatest tennis match of all time in the 2008 final.
This great rivalry has thrilled the tennis world for 15 years, and both players will go down in the books as two of the greatest athletes to walk the earth.
Federer’s exact words after his 2004 loss to Nadal were as follows: “I’ve heard a lot about him and I think this is not a surprise to anybody.
“I’m not surprised. That’s what youngsters do.”
A great champion in defeat, it was clear even back then that Federer regarded the Spanish teenager as one of the brightest young stars of the sport.
The pair, who have 36 Grand Slam titles between them, have played each other 38 times, 24 of them have been finals, with Nadal leading the head-to-head 23-15.
Federer gushed over his Spanish rival when recollecting over their first encounter 15 years ago today.
He said: “Everybody thought he was just a clay courter, and he proved that he was probably going to be more than just that.
“He went on to have this great career that many expected him to have.”
At Indian Wells, earlier this month, Nadal was forced to pull out of his semi-final against Federer with a knee injury, which also led to his withdrawal from the Miami Open.
The 32-year-old, however, is back on the training court at his academy in Mallorca, ahead of the start of the clay court season which begins on April 15 at the Monte Carlo Masters.
As for Federer, the 37-year-old will face South African giant Kevin Anderson in the last eight in Miami and after his straight-sets victory over Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.News Now - Sport News