The second ATP 1000 event of the year suddenly came alive finally on Thursday as Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios won enthralling matches to set up a meeting in the semi final on Friday at the Miami Open played at Crandon Park. Earlier on Wednesday Rafael Nadal and the Italian Fabio Fognini won their round of eight matches easily to set up their 11th meeting in tour level matches.
Roger Federer, despite his 18-6 record (after today’s match) has always had his fair share of problems against Berdych who has beaten him in the past on very big stage, notable among them were the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and also at the quarter finals at both Wimbledon 2010 and U.S. Open 2012. It was little surprise as the Czech launched an impressive fight back after dropping the first set 2-6.
Berdych regrouped and took advantage of a loose service game from the Swiss maestro to go ahead 5-3 and held serve to snap a 15 set losing streak against Federer to take the match to a decider. A pair of forehand errors from Berdych gave him the break in the sixth game to lead 4-2. However, Federer was broken to love while serving for the match at 5-3 and he could not convert on his first match point at 5-4 on Berdych’s serve who erased it with a 120 mph second serve.
The final set, eventually, went to a tie-break where Federer was the first to get a mini break which he surrendered with a double fault. Berdych led 6-4 in the tie-break but Federer would force a backhand unforced error and a forehand into the net. Ironically Berdych served a double fault at 6-7 in the tie-break and Federer reached his seventh Miami semi final after a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6) win in one hour and 57 minutes.
It was the first time since his Wimbledon quarter final win against Marin Cilic of Croatia when he saved match points on route to a come from behind win from two sets down. Ironically, Goran Ivanisevic was the coach of Cilic then, and now he coaches Berdych.
Federer moves to a 17-1 start in 2017, his best start to a season since 2006, and has now won seven straight tie-breaks. The only loss this year for the 18 time grand slam winner was at the Dubai Open second round, Federer squandered match points to lose against Evgeny Donskoy of Russia. He us now within two matches of a third Indian Wells and Miami double, having done so in 2005-06. Novak Djokovic is the only player to have claimed the double four times, 2011, 2014 to 2016.
In one of the most dramatic matches this year between two of the most promising GenNext stars Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Alexander Zverev of Germany, Kyrgios required six match points before prevailing 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 under lights to reach the semi final. The 12th seeded Kyrgios got the lone break of serve in the ninth game and then held his own serve to claim the first set 6-4.
The two held serve comfortably to force a tie break in the second set. Kyrgios had two match points at 6-4, but he commited two errors from the baseline and then saved a set point at 6-7 with an ace. On his third match point at 8-7, Zverev erased it by chasing down a drop shot and ripping a backhand pass. A top spin lob from the German would earn him a third set point at 10-9 and Kyrgios hit a tweener in response to a lob from Zverev on set point.
Kyrgios was not to be denied as he broke in the sixth game to surge ahead 4-2. Zverev saved two more match points at 3-5 down in the third set but Kyrgios held his own to claim the win in two hours and 33 minutes, 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3. That sets up a showdown against Roger Federer whom he had beaten in three tie break sets at the Madrid Open on Clay in 2015: their only previous meeting. Kyrgios had conceded a walk over due to a bout of food poisining, two weeks ago in Indian Wells, just two days after recording a second consecutive win over former world number Novak Djokovic.
On Wednesday in the morning session, the explosive Italian Fabio Fognini, ranked 40th in the world, upset last years finalist Kei Nishikori, the second seed, 6-2, 6-4 in just one hour and seven minutes. Later on in the evening session, Rafael Nadal, looking for his maiden title in Miami, kept his hopes alive with a convincing 6-2, 6-3 win over the local favourite Jack Sock.
The only time Nadal looked in trouble was in the second set he trailed 0-2 and faced two break points at 15-40 on his own serve. He would wither the storm to claim the match in one hour 23 minutes. That set up the eleventh meeting against Fognini who trails 3-7 in career meetings between the two. Fognini had come from two sets down in the 2015 U.S. Open in New York to beat the two time U.S. Open champion in five sets in the third round.
Following then is the line up for the semi final with my pick mentioned first:-
Nick Kyrgios (12) (14-3) v. Roger Federer (4) (17-1); Kyrgios leads 1-0
Rafael Nadal (5) (18-4) v. Fabio Fognini (-) (12-6); Nadal leads 7-3
The 35 year old Federer has looked somewhat jaded in his last two matches, his opponent Kyrgios loves the big stage and would be dangerous. Kyrgios had saved a match point in his only meeting against Federer on the red clay in Madrid and has looked razor sharp aided by his booming serves. Federer playing in his 10th match in 3 weeks may run out of gas against his 22 year old opponent.
Nadal, a four time beaten finalist in Miami, has looked good in his last match and came back gallantly after being bageled in the first set by the German Philip Kohlschreiber in the previous round to win in three sets. Fognini will be tough to beat but the fresh and experienced Nadal should prevail in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]