MIAMI, FL, USA - It was exactly 13 years ago - on March 28, 2004 - when one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history began, as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal squared off for the first time in the third round of the Miami Open. And on that day the underdog most definitely wasn’t intimidated at all.
Going in, not many people would’ve guessed it would even be close - Federer wasn’t just fresh off his first two Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, he was also the new No.1 player in the world. He was also riding a 12-match winning streak (and had won 28 of his last 29 matches).
Meanwhile, Nadal was just 17 years old and ranked No.34 in the world, and although he had wins over Top 10 players on his favored clay, he had never beaten a member of the elite on hardcourts.
But from the moment they took the court all of those numbers went out the window. An inspired Nadal broke Federer three times - and never faced a single break point himself - to prevail, 6-3 6-3.
Here are some highlights from the 70-minute stunner:
“No, no, I’m not surprised,” Federer would tell reporters in his post-match press conference. “I’ve heard a lot about him and saw some matches of him. I think this is not a big surprise for everybody.”
“Obviously, he didn’t play his best tennis, and that’s the reason why I could win,” Nadal said. “If he had played his best tennis, I would have had no chance - but that’s what happens in tennis. If a player like me plays at a very, very good level and a top player like Roger doesn’t play his best, I can win.
“I mean, I was afraid that he could win 6-1 6-1 or 6-1 6-2, but I was really looking forward to playing this match because I was playing against the No.1 player in the world,” the Spaniard added.
“I went on court with a positive attitude, not with the attitude of, ‘Oh, let’s try and win one game.’”
And the rest is history. That was Nadal’s first of 19 career wins over World No.1s, and the first of Federer and Nadal’s 36 (and counting) career meetings - and the two have gone on to win more than half of the Grand Slams since then (30 of 52 - 16 of those 30 to Federer, 14 of those 30 to Nadal).
Here are a few throwbacks to March 28, 2004, when Federer and Nadal met for the first time:
- Only two players in that week’s Top 20 are still active: Federer (No.1) and Robredo (No.20)
- Murray and Djokovic had not played an ATP-level match yet (and Wawrinka had only won two)
- Henin and Clijsters were the Top 2 women (Serena was ranked No.6 and Venus No.17)
- DodgeBall, Mean Girls and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 were among the movies that hadn’t hit theaters yet
- And this was the No.1 song on the Billboard Hot 100: