This time last year, Roger Federer secured his 28th Masters 1000 title in Miami – and to celebrate, we take…
This time last year, Roger Federer secured his 28th Masters 1000 title in Miami – and to celebrate, we take a look at the most pivotal Masters moments of the Swiss legend’s career.
First title: Hamburg 2002
Back when Hamburg was a Masters Series tournament (it’s now been degraded to a 500-event just after Wimbledon), a 20-year-old prospect by the name of Federer first announced himself as a genuine future champion as he completely obliterated World No. 1 Marat Safin 6-1 6-3 6-4 in the final.
You can get an indication of Federer’s talent by Safin’s comments after the match.
“I wasn’t nervous, just pissed [off],” he said. “It looks ridiculous when I am No1 in the world and I do this. It’s sad but it’s true.”
Federer, who was seeded No. 11 at the time, was over the moon – especially after his tough start to his clay-court career, declaring he never thought he’d win a title on the surface.
“I find it incredible what has happened,” Federer said. “I lost my first 11 matches on the tour on clay, played badly here before and in Monte Carlo and in Rome, felt negative coming into the tournament and never thought I would take a title on this surface.”
Federer cracked the top 10 for the first time courtesy of his Hamburg triumph and laid the platform for what would ultimately turn out to be a legendary career.
Dominance begins in the desert: Indian Wells 2004
2004 was the year Federer began to dominate the competition, winning three Grand Slams and establishing himself as the undisputed World No. 1 – and after securing his first Australian Open at the start of the season, the Swiss continued to light up the tour in Indian Wells, overcoming Andre Agassi in three sets in the semi-finals before dispatching Tim Henman 6-3 6-3 in the final.
It was a significant victory for Federer – he had lost all six of his previous completed matches against the serve-and-volleying Henman, but he never lost to the Brit again, defeating him five more times throughout the course of their career without dropping a set.
Miami 2004: First ‘Fedal’ showdown
Federer’s impending dominance did suffer an early roadblock in the form of a teenage Rafael Nadal, who stunned the World No. 1 6-3 6-3 in the third round of the 2004 Miami Masters.
Nadal would lose in the following round to Fernando Gonzalez, but it was the first encounter in what has turned out to be the most storied rivalry in tennis history. And, as fate would have it, Federer would get his revenge 12 months later…
Miami 2005: First ‘Fedal’ final
Federer and Nadal have played 24 finals against each other and the very first came in Miami in 2005. Federer had only lost one of his last 48 matches and was in absolutely ruthless form, but Nadal showcased his champion qualities, taking the first two sets and causing the Swiss to throw his racquet in frustration.
In the end, Federer was able to carve out a sensational comeback, surviving a third set tiebreaker when he was two points away from defeat, before running away with it 2-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-1 in three hours and 43 minutes.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know how good he is,” Federer said of Nadal after the match. “In every match I play I’m the hot favourite. When I lose sets, it seems crazy and today I saw the danger Nadal represents.”
First and only three-peat: 2006 Indian Wells
Only once throughout his illustrious career has Federer won a Masters 1000 title in three straight years, and that came at Indian Wells from 2004-06.
Coming into Indian Wells with 111 straight weeks as World No. 1, Federer was basically unbeatable to anyone not named Rafael Nadal, who was the only man in 2006 to have conquered the Swiss for the season so far, doing so in the Dubai final. However, Nadal would be across the net this time after James Blake toppled the young Spaniard in the semi-finals.
Blake was playing some of the best tennis of his career and swiftly raced out to a 4-1 double break lead over Federer in the first set of the final. However, he would win just four more games for the entire match as Federer quickly found his mojo and sprinted towards the finish line, prevailing 7-5 6-3 6-0 to capture his third Indian Wells crown on the bounce.
Federer snaps multiple droughts at Madrid 2009
Federer entered the 2009 Madrid Masters without a Masters 1000 title in almost two years and on a six-match losing streak to Nadal, which included Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open finals. However, the tables would turn in the final – and partially due to Nadal’s marathon contest with Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, which the King of Clay won in four hours and three minutes, which was the longest men’s three-set match in the Open Era at the time.
Unlike his Australian Open final win over Federer earlier in the year when he overcame Fernando Verdasco in a gruelling five-setter, Nadal couldn’t back up in the title match without sufficient rest, succumbing to the Swiss 6-4 6-4. It was Nadal’s first loss on clay in 33 matches and just Federer’s second win on the surface over his great rival.
“I don’t think he’s going to take any damage away from this,” Federer said. “I’m sure he’s going to be rock solid in Paris again.”
That year, Nadal suffered his first ever loss at Roland Garros to Robin Soderling and Federer went on to win his only French Open title as a result.
Federer completes Paris double in 2011
Federer came into the Bercy-Paris Masters in 2011 with the very real threat of failing to win a Grand Slam or Masters 1000 event in a single season for the first time since 2001.
It has been an extremely disappointing year by Federer’s lofty standards, but he ended it on a high, winning his first ever Bercy-Paris title and becoming just the second man after Andre Agassi to have won both Roland Garros and Bercy Masters titles in Paris. Federer, who was down to No. 4 in the world, beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 7-6(3) in the final and would go on to secure the ATP Finals title in London a couple of weeks later.
“I’m amazed by how well I played,” said Federer. “I’m really ecstatic to have played so well this week from the first ball to the end.
“I had many attempts to win Paris-Bercy and for some reasons I had not been able to win it earlier, so it’s a special victory.”
Returning to the champions corner at Cincinnati 2014
Again, Federer went two years without winning a Masters 1000 title, but he bounced back to his best form in Cincinnati in 2014, registering his 16th straight win over David Ferrer in the final, 6-3 1-6 6-2.
Cincinnati is Federer’s most successful Masters 1000 tournament, with the Swiss winning it a total of seven times, but he had to fight hard to overcome Ferrer, who almost became the first player since 2008 to drop a 6-0 set on Federer.
“I’ve played some good tennis here over the years, so it’s really nice to come back and win it again,” said Federer, who’s win also doubled as his 80th career title.
“The whole tournament was really good for me.”
2017 resurgence in Indian Wells/Miami
After missing six months of the 2016 season due to knee surgery, people were beginning to speculate whether Federer would ever be able to return to title-winning form. The Swiss proved all of his doubters wrong in spectacular fashion over the first three months of 2017, beating Nadal in a five-set Australian Open final before completing the third ‘Sunshine Double’ of his career in Indian Wells and Miami, beating Stan Wawrinka in the former and Nadal once again in the latter.
Federer’s win in Indian Wells saw him tie the record previously held by Djokovic for most titles in the Californian desert, while his victory over Nadal saw him return to the top four and claim his first title in Miami since toppling coach Ivan Ljubicic back in 2006.
“The dream continues,” Federer said after beating Nadal for the fourth straight match (his longest winning streak in their 13-year rivalry).
“It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks. What a start to the year, thank you to my team and all who have supported me, especially in my more difficult challenging times last year.”
Miami 2019: Title No. 101
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) March 31, 2019
After clinching his 100th title in Dubai the previous month, Federer bounced back from the disappointment of an Indian Wells final defeat to Dominic Thiem by chopping down big-serving defending Miami champion John Isner to capture his 101st career crown.
Federer won an incredible 32 of 35 points behind his own serve as he triumphed 6-1 6-4 to land his fourth Miami Masters title. It was a special win for Federer, who first played in Miami two decades prior in 1999.
“It was a dream start, relaxing my nerves [to break in the opening game],” said Federer. “What a week it’s been for me. I’m just so happy right now. It’s unbelievable. I played here in 1999 for the first time and here I am in 2019. It means a lot to me.”