Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet for the 37th time and in their 23rd final on Sunday as they look to be crowned Miami Open 2017 champion.
The pair have enjoyed a fabulous renaissance at the beginning of the season, while top-ranked players Sir Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have struggled with form and fitness, and both will return to the top-five in the world after their exploits in Florida.
Federer is a two-time winner at the Masters 1000 event, while 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal will compete in his fifth final having never lifted the title.
It promises to be a splendid spectacle, with two juggernauts of the game clashing for a third time in 2017 after not meeting once in the previous year.
Federer has had a tough route to the final, which has again highlighted just how high a level he’s playing at currently at. He impressively discarded Juan Martin del Potro in a tricky early draw, while Frances Tiafoe and Roberto Bautista Agut were also beaten on his way to the last eight.
The 35-year-old was then forced to survive two match points against a resilient Tomas Berdych before competing in one of the best matches of the year so far – a three-hour epic with Australian Nick Kyrgios.
To say Nadal’s draw has been more comfortable than Federer’s would be an understatement – he’s certainly had an easier time of it. With other dangerous seeds Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori struggling with injury, Nadal has had a relatively stress-free run to the final. The only seed the Spaniard was forced to take on was Jack Sock, who was routinely dispatched.
The pair have been the best performers thus far but it’s Federer who has truly exceeded all expectations. After taking six months away from the sport to allow full recovery from a knee injury, the Swiss maestro has roared back to ATP Tour action winning both the Australian Open and Indian Wells. His only blip to date came in a shock loss to then world No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai but Federer is leading the Race To London and will return to No. 4 in the world with a win over Nadal.
The Spaniard’s form will also see him return to the top 5, although he’s not managed to lift a title in the opening three months of the year. He’s suffered final defeats to Federer in Melbourne and Sam Querrey in Acapulco, while his only other losses have come to the Swiss in Indian Wells and Milos Raonic in Brisbane.
While Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 23-13, the tide has certainly turned in recent times. Federer has won their last three meetings – something that had never happened at any previous point in their rivalry – and blew the 30-year-old away at Indian Wells.
I feel like there is a mountain to climb in Rafa. He’s hasn’t won this event before. He’s definitely feeling fresher than I feel right now. But that’s not a problem. I’ll be ready on Sunday.
‘It’s definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again. I’m thrilled for him that he came back as well as he did after the comeback and the struggles that he had last year.
‘It feels like old times. We’re playing each other every week now. We can’t get enough of each other. Hopefully it’s not our last match.’
‘It’s great to be in the final… For me, doesn’t matter the opponent.
‘I am happy to be in that final again, and I am excited to play another final of an important event.’