Federer Rallies From 0-2 Sets Down to Win First Miami TitlePosted on April 4, 2005
By Richard Vach, Tennis-X.com Senior Writer
Trailing 0-2 sets and 1-4 in the third in the best-of-five set Miami final Sunday, things looked pretty bleak for world No. 1 Roger Federer.
Like his pre-No. 1 days there were plenty of shanks off the frame, missed opportunities, uncharacteristic racquet abuse, muttering and, at times, outright screaming. Across the net stood the muscular 18-year-old Spaniard who looked like a walking orange-sicle who wandered in off of South Beach in white clam-digger pants below the knees and a sleeveless day-glow orange shirt with white headband.
The teen prodigy Rafael Nadal, who one year ago in Miami handed Federer one of only six losses during his 2004 season, was leveling weaponry the Swiss had already said he feared before they took the court: penetrating, heavy groundstrokes delivered with a lefty spin, forcing the world No. 1 to hit balls above his shoulders -- the same high-bouncing ball to the backhand that grounded Pete's Sampras' Roland Garros campaign year after year.
Two sets down and trailing 1-4, Federer saw a number of records going out the window: a potential 18th consecutive win in a tournament final, adding to his current Open Era record; a potential 22nd match win in a row and a potential 32-1 win-loss record, the best start since John McEnroe's 39-0 start in 1984; a fourth consecutive tournament win in 2005, and eight out of the last nine played; and 48 of 49 potential matches won since last year's US Open.
At two points from losing the match in the third set, the Swiss thought, 'Cut those records short and add a '1' to the loss column...Wonder where Mirka wants to have dinner tonight. South Beach might be nice, lots of selection there. Hmmm, sure is hot out here. Nadal looks like a cream-sicle in that outfit, with they had a courtside ice cream concession stand. Did I set the VCR to tape 'Pimp My Ride'?'
Staring into such a void against one of the hottest players on the ATP with one of the biggest forehands, and struggling mightily simply to hold serve, it forces one to ask the question after Federer's gutsy 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 win: If he can win such a match on one of his worst days, how the hell can anyone beat Roger Federer?
"I was very worried today," said Federer, who totaled a whopping 74 unforced errors. "Especially the first set, I don't lose sets very often 6-2, you know, so this really shows you that I was struggling. But I think it's got a lot to do with his game. He's left-handed, I had to get used to (it), and couldn't quite do that. Maybe played a little bit too aggressive in the beginning."
Federer gave a preview of his struggles during three-set wins earlier in the event over Mariano Zabaleta and Mario Ancic. With no left-handed players in the Top 20 before Nadal's ascendence this week, Federer said the spin-heavy game of the Spaniard gives him a look he rarely sees.
"Because he's a lefty, it kind of changes so many things," Federer said. "His forehand is huge. Even on the run, (he) can hit it with the spins, backhand to the court, make you hit another tough shot -- anyway for me...(The forehand) bounces very high, you know. He doesn't play it very long, but short so it bounces high. Until you actually realize that you can actually attack the ball, it's too late and it gets up high on you. From then on, it's actually a very risky shot to go for something."
In addition to glaring at a spectator who shouted "Wake up!" before one of his service deliveries, Federer engaged in some uncharacteristic racquet-throwing that harkened back to his junior days.
"I was very disappointed, you know," Federer said of his struggle before eventually taking the third set tiebreak to regain his mojo. "I was missing one opportunity after the other. I really felt like I'm climbing uphill all the time, and I had an opportunity and I missed it again and just had enough, you know. So I threw (the racquet) hard and, I don't know, maybe -- who knows -- it did me good and I kind of woke up maybe."
Nadal had visibly run out of gas in the fifth set after hours of emotional displays and baseline scrambling, but Federer said the Spaniard's problems were apparent as early as the second set.
"Middle through the second, you know, I already had the feeling he wasn't hitting the ball as hard anymore," Federer said. "But anyway he ended up winning it. Couple of points, you know, he can put unbelievable pace on the ball. Of course, you know, in the fifth set I started to feel like, you know, maybe his legs were getting a little bit tired and he couldn't quite use the game like he wanted to."
Nadal, who made his debut in the Top 20 today on the ATP Rankings at No. 17, said one or two points (or one of two bad line calls) made the difference in the match.
"I am happy for my tennis. I am improving. I am playing good," said Nadal, who complained of a line call that would have given him a 0-40 look on Federer's serve late in the third set. "But today I won two sets to love, 4-1 in the third, 4-3, Love-30, and the ball, the forehand of Federer, is out, should. The referee say good. But 5-3 in the tiebreak, he play one forehand on the line. But he is the No. 1, no? He won this matches and I am happy with my tennis and not too happy for the result final, no?"
No, not too happy with the result, or his first-round draw this week in Valencia against former No. 1 and French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. But yes, happy with his form entering his favorite claycourt season.
Nadal had only four aces over the five sets, but broke Federer's serve five times Sunday. That's an average of one break per set for your struggling with the math, normally good enough to win against a top player on hardcourt, but not when you're still muscle-spinning in your own serve, and facing the world No. 1, even on his worst day. Nadal is still seeking his first career hardcourt trophy-raising, but entered Miami with two consecutive claycourt titles.
In the women's double final, No. 3 seeds Svetlana Kuznetsova/Alicia Molik defeated No. 5 seeds Lisa Raymond/Rennae Stubbs 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2 for their second title this year following their win at the Australian Open.