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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, April 2, 2017

Roger Federer

Roger Federer did not drop serve sweeping Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-4, winning his first Miami Open title in 11 years and completing his third sunshine double winning Indian Wells and Miami back to back.

Photo credit: Miami Open

The purple court was a revival ground as rivals came nose-to-nose at net.

Thirteen years after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal squared off for the first time in Miami, they came face-to-face at net late in the second set.

Watch: Miami Open Live Final Blog

Running down a drop shot, Nadal nudged a determined reply only to see Federer conjure a slick forehand lob for break point.

That sequence typified today’s Miami Open final. Nadal kept charging, but Federer played over his head when it mattered most.

Dictating play with his forehand, Federer dissected Nadal for the fourth straight time, 6-3, 6-4, winning his first Miami Open title in 11 years and completing the sunshine double—capturing Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in succession—for the third time.

The slider serve out wide was the key stroke today. Federer won 34 of 39 first-serve points, fought off all four break points and claimed his third Key Biscayne crown on a run of 24 consecutive holds.

“I thought (the serve) was totally key because he looked good from the get go,” Federer told ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert afterward. “He was playing big tennis, stepping in doing all the right things… Maybe a wrong decision by me in that (break point) moment and I think it would turn quickly. It was an intense first set—could have gone either way.

“Second set, we didn’t have much chances on return games, eventually I got a few important ones and played the right way just as I have all year… It’s so crucial against a great return player like him to always protect your serve.”

The 35-year-old Swiss extended his winning streak over Nadal to a career-best four matches, including three victories this season. Federer fought back from 1-3 down in the decisive set to defeat Nadal in the Australian Open final then swept him in the fourth round of Indian Wells.

Continuing his quest for his first hard-court title since the 2014 Doha, Nadal suffered his third finals loss of the season. It was the King of Clay's fifth Miami Open final defeat.

"(Roger has made) one of the best comebacks ever from a long injury so well done. I’m very happy for you," Nadal told Federer during the trophy presentation. "Was a good start to the season playing already three finals.

"Disappointing for me. I am trying during all my career l am in this position, but with the smaller trophy. I gonna keep trying hard for the next couple of years."

The ATP computer shows Federer ranked sixth, but he’s clearly playing the best tennis of any man in the world. Winning his 91st career title, Federer collected the champion’s check of $1.175 million and 1,000 ranking points.

The Australian Open champion made news immediately afterward, telling ESPN’s Brad Gilbert he plans to skip most of the clay-court season before returning to Roland Garros next month.

“I’m not 24 anymore so things have changed in a big way,” said Federer, who missed Roland Garros last year. “I probably won’t play any clay-court events except the French. I need a rest. My body needs healing—you’ll probably see me at the French again.”

The 30-year-old Nadal still leads the rivalry, 23-14, though Federer now holds a 10-9 advantage in their career hard-court clashes.

The 37th edition of the iconic rivalry returned to where it all began. On March 28th, 2004 a then 17-year-old Nadal stunned world No. 1 Federer, 6-3, 6-3, in the Miami third round.

A year later, they faced off in the Key Biscayne final as full-fledged rivals.

Rallying from a 3-5 deficit in the third-set tiebreak, Federer fought back to capture his second consecutive Masters Series title with a 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Nadal in the 2005 title match.

Squinting into the sun at the start today, Federer could not find his first serve facing two break points in the opening game.

In a crackling rally, rivals collaborated to hit three lines. Federer wristed a forehand crosscourt to save the first break point and snuffed out the second with a sharp backhand volley.

Striking with conviction, Nadal dotted the sideline with a 110 mph ace holding in his opening game.

Actively seeking to step into the court, Federer frequently pressed forward. Stress helped loosen Nadal’s left arm as he denied two break points in the fourth game. A twisting ace wide saved the second break preceding a 123 mph ace blast out wide as the Spaniard leveled, 2-all.

Crouching low to return, the five-time finalist made more inroads into Federer’s service games in the first set than he did during the entire straight-sets loss he suffered to the Swiss in Indian Wells last week. Nadal earned break points in three of Federer’s first four service games today.

Skimming the top of the tape with a stretch forehand, Federer fired a forehand winner saving a fourth break point in the seventh game as he held for 4-3.

On a steamy afternoon, Nadal’s canary-colored shirt was already saturated with sweat when Federer cranked up considerable heat from his forehand. A slap-shot forehand return winner—the Swiss’ 11th forehand winner of the set—gave Federer a sixth break point. Playing a higher, heavier inside-out forehand, Federer drew a netted reply registering the first break for 5-3.

The Nadal two-hander, typically a rock-solid shot, disintegrated a bit in the ninth game as Federer cruised through his most comfortable hold of the day, seizing a one set lead after 48 sweaty minutes.

The bad news for Nadal: He was 2-24 in his prior 26 finals when dropping the first set. The worse news: Federer was cruising through second-set service games.

Whipping the slider serve out wide to stretch the court, Federer set up the first strike effectively.

The two-time champion stamped three straight love holds to start the second set. By then, Federer had racked up 22 consecutive holds in the tournament for 3-all.

Finesse helped Nadal fend off the first break point of set two. Following a drop shot forward he stabbed a stretch forehand volley then saved a second break point bolting a backhand winner down the line. Withstanding that stress test, Nadal held in the seventh game.

The tape contributed to the lone break of the second set. Federer drove a backhand that smacked into the top of the tape, hung in the air for a split-second then plopped over. Nadal did well to run down tape job and shovel a reply over net, but Federer improvised a forehand lob into the corner for break point.

Opening his shoulders up, Federer flashed a backhand return bolt down the line breaking for 5-4 and igniting an uproar from the crowd.

The nine-time Roland Garros champion went down swinging. Nadal pushed it to 30-all in the final game.

Creating an audacious angle, Federer slashed an inside-out forehand winner for championship point. One more wide serve sparked a floated return ending a 95-minute match.

"I’m happy we’re both here together, this is where it all started for us in 2004 whenyou were a little boy," Federer told Nadal. "You’ve grown into a strong man...

"I truly believe you are gonna win this tournament. I’m sure you’re gonna tear me to pieces over there (during clay season). For me, the dream continues."


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