Though they've played 22 times in their career, seven times in the final of a Grand Slam, there's the sense that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal keep missing each other in tournaments. At the past two U.S. Opens, for instance, the two men were on a collision course for the finals, but tripped up both times. In 2009, Nadal couldn't get past Juan Martin Del Potro and last year Federer failed to close out Novak Djokovic.
Non-majors aren't exempt either. This year, Nadal faltered in a semifinal in Doha with Federer waiting and then Fed did the same two weeks ago at Indian Wells. The matchup everybody wanted to see wasn't meant to be.
It certainly felt that way Thursday night in Key Biscayne. Federer was already in the semifinal, courtesy an early retirement from the pesky Gilles Simon. All Nadal needed to do was get past Tomas Berdych (no easy task) and Miami would have its dream semifinal. For the first 45 minutes, that looked all but assured.
Nadal cruised to a first-set victory but tightened up in the second, calling the trainer at one point to address a stiff neck. When the world No. 1 went down 0-40 on serve in the first game of the decisive set, there was the palpable feeling that Nadal-Federer would slip away one more time. But as quickly as the momentum had shifted to Berdych, it shifted back to Nadal, who took the final set 6-3. His much-anticipated match with Federer, the first for the rivals on U.S. soil since 2005, was set.
A quick recap of their history to whet your appetite for the main event:
Federer-Nadal. Live, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The winner gets Novak Djokovic or Mardy Fish in Sunday's final. Can't wait.
- Roger Federer
- Rafael Nadal
- Novak Djokovic