KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – It had a “Fight Night” atmosphere, but Friday night’s Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal men’s semifinal at the Sony Ericsson Open was as suspenseful as a first-round knock-out.
A dreadful Federer splattered unforced errors all over the stadium court at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, falling 6-3, 6-2 to his Spanish rival.
Federer committed an incredible 31 unforced errors – greater the number of points it takes to win a set – in the loss. Nadal, by contrast, played a clean match committing only 10 unforced errors.
Nadal, the world No. 1, will face No. 2 Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final – a re-match of the final of last month’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in a match-up that will likely determine Grand Slam tournament titles for the years to come.
Nadal took first control of the match with the No. 3-ranked Federer in the middle of the first set, breaking Federer in the third game of the match and rolling through five straight games from 4-2 up in the first set to 3-0 in the second set.
“It’s always a bit of an adjustment obviously for me coming out and playing Rafa – any lefty, I guess, but him in particular. That’s what made it hard tonight” said Federer, the 16-time major champion who will turn 30 this August. “In the first couple of game you get a break down, and then I felt like conditions weren’t really favoring me as well. It knew it was slow, but just makes it so hard to hit through on him on a surface like this. Then maybe you try to overhit a bit and then obviously I starting taking wrong decisions on big points.”
Said Nadal, “I think I played very, very good match, very solid and serious. First set especially I think I played very, very good. Second set, I think he played worse. He had more mistakes than usual. He tried to play shorter points, so I think second set, he didn’t play well.”
Many of the crowd of 14,638 fans chanted and cheered for Roger in the second-set, hoping to pump him up to get him into the match. However, Nadal continued to tighten his grip on his top rival, with whom he now holds a 15-8 head-to-head advantage in their all-time series.
The match marked the first time in six years that the two tennis icons have played in North America – the last meeting coming in the 2005 final here, Federer winning in five sets.