Roger Federer set up a dream final with arch-rival Rafael Nadal at the Miami Open, edging Australian hot-shot Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (9), 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5) in a thrilling semifinal on Friday after Nadal had earlier eased past Italian Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-3 in a one-sided last-four meeting.
Sunday’s final will be a rematch of the brilliant 2017 Australian Open final in which the legends contested a classic which tennis fans a welcome throwback to their younger years. But Federer’s meeting with Kyrgios could easily go down as one of the matches of the year, such was the quality displayed in the energy-sapping three hour semi.
While on first reading it may seem like both men held their serves in the first two sets, forcing the issue into a tiebreak, you would be sorely mistaken. For the Australian upstart had missed out on a meeting with Federer at Indian Wells after a last-minute withdrawal and in Miami, he was a man on a mission.
He looked to attack Federer from the off and that tactic paid off handsomely in the opening set at 3-3, with the Swiss maestro’s serve crumbling under the Australian’s relentless pressure.
Serving to see out the set at 5-4, Kyrgios then lost his composure to go down 15-40 and double faulted to hand Federer a way back. The 4th-seeded Swiss, then started to attack the 12th-seeded Australian, who to his credit managed to hold his composure to save set point and force the issue into a tiebreak.
Even the tiebreak was poised on the edge, with Kyrgios double faulting again to give Federer his third set point and the 17-time Grand Slam champion took the set after his opponent sent a backhand long.
The second set saw both players hold their service games, in contrasting manners, however, as Federer was completely dominant on his serve but Kyrgios had to save a couple of break points.
For the second time in the match, a tiebreak was witnessed and this time it was even more of a cliff-hanger. Federer was unable to capitalise on a match-point at 6-5, with Kyrgios refusing to give up and managed to get a set point of his own at 6-7 and while he couldn't take that chance, he finally sent an ace down at 10-9 to equal the match.
And if the first two sets had been intense, the pressure was amped up for the decider but somehow, neither player faced a single break point on their serve with the tie heading for a third tiebreak in as many sets!
Federer, much to the agony of a majority of the fans, went down a break to trail 1-3 but an eagle-eyed challenge from the Swiss turned the tide in his favour, as the replays proved Kyrgios had sent a backhand long. And as Kyrgios double-faulted yet again at 5-5, Federer sent in a massive serve to see out the match, with the crowd roaring in delight after a superb display of tennis over the course of three hours and 10 minutes.
Earlier in the day, Rafael Nadal improved to a 8-3 record against Fabio Fognini, swatting aside the Italian in their semifinal clash without much fuss to reach his 5th Miami Open final.
The Spaniard is searching for his maiden Miami title and after a dominant display against Fognini, one could say he might just edge his great rival Federer on Sunday.
He was bullish from the first point in the opening set, never allowing Fognini to get into a rhythm to take the set in just 26 minutes.
While the second saw the Italian put up more of a fight, erasing two break points before eventually double faulting at 5-5 to enable the Spaniard to serve for the match. Nadal didn't blink once and held his serve confidently to finish off the match in an hour and a half.