When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stood at opposing baselines on the Rod Laver Arena back in January there was a sense that this was the final encore of one of tennis’ greatest rivalries. How wrong we all were. Instead of a brief encore, 2017 seems to have unveiled a whole new act for the “Fedal” narrative.
Once again the veterans find themselves the final two left in the draw. This time Miami is the destination for their tussle – only their second contest in a Masters final during the last seven years.
It could not be a more fitting destination either. The two contested their first final together in Miami a mere twelve years ago. Victory for either man will also give them the hard court bragging rights. Currently their head to head on the surface is finely poised at nine victories of piece. Doubles figures awaits the champion of the Miami Masters final.
— Davide Lombardo (@bomba_isntmynm) April 2, 2017
What is perhaps most strange is that when the Miami draw was released nearly two weeks ago and the two were placed in opposite halves there was a strange sense of inevitability. Such has been the quality of both of their play this year.
Roger Federer has been the standout performer of the two. The Swiss maestro has always been the more technically graceful but looks even more relaxed than usual. The backhand is perhaps more blistering now than it has ever been. This no doubt comes courtesy of a complete lack of expectation. Federer has achieved more than any other tennis player could dream of and anything else at this stage of his career is merely a welcome bonus.
Federer’s remarkable comeback has rather masked the superb form Rafael Nadal is showing. The Spaniard already has three top-ten scalps to his name and is now into his third final of the year. The only thing missing from Nadal’s 2017 so far is a title. That may well change today, especially as Nadal will be eager to stop the three match losing streak against his great rival.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal break all the rules to dominate 2017
To put into context quite how dominant “Fedal” have been so far this year, in their lengthy, glittering careers they have never before played each other three times this early in a season. The pair sit comfortably first and second on the ATP Race to London and have faced little competition from any of their fellow players.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have both suffered jittery starts to the year and are currently out with injured elbows. The likes of Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic – tipped to fill the void left by “Fedal” – have once again failed to take the final step up. The Next Gen are on their way but still need time to develop develop. Aside from Evgeny Donskoy’s shock win over Federer in Dubai, Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych are the only players to have even come close to upsetting the Australian Open champion.
The two have not just taken advantage of the flounderings of others but have fully dominated the Tour. The fact that they have met in two of the three biggest finals of the year as well as also meeting in the round of sixteen at Indian Wells illustrates the command they have over the rest of the ATP. You might just suspect they would have met in the final of Indian Wells as well if the draw had allowed it.
People: “Their career is basically over.”
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@tsitsipasstef) March 21, 2017
“Fedal” success puts tennis back on the global map
What this has also done is given tennis a global appeal again. As much as us hardcore tennis fans love the tour, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the names that captivate a global audience and make tennis ‘relevant’ for the armchair viewers. Having these two contesting finals again not only brings in the casual fan but also makes the casual fan more aware of the players coming through the ranks – the Nick Kyrgios’s and Alexander Zverevs of the world.
The revival of the “Fedal” rivalry has meant 2017 has felt nothing short of remarkably nostalgic. How much longer we can ride the wave of this wonderful rivalry is yet to be seen but for now at least these two titans of the sport continue to battle. We don’t know how much longer it will continue so for now, let us savour every last moment.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will contest the Miami Masters final at 1pm local time (6pm GMT).