Rafael Nadal’s hopes of winning his first Miami Masters title remain alive after a straight sets win over Fabio Fognini (6-1, 7-5) sent him to the finals. The Masters 1000 tournament in Florida is one title that has eluded Nadal throughout his illustrious career, with four finals defeats a rare dark spot on his glittering resume, but this year the fifth time could be the charm after a string of impressive results.
Both players were coming off of impressive wins in the previous round. Fognini was coming off of a straight sets victory over World No. 4 Kei Nishikori (6-4, 6-2) to secure his spot in the semifinal (the first time in a decade that an unseeded player reached the semis in Miami) and had dismantled Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga and Feliciano Lopez earlier in the tournament. Nadal had also been in strong form leading up to the semifinal clash after a resounding win over Jack Sock Thursday.
The Spaniard got off to a quick start, taking the first set 6-1 after just 26 minutes. Fognini did a nice job of mixing up the pace and trying to stay in it but was unable to establish any kind of foothold in the match. Aside from two breathtaking drop shots, the Italian was not up to the challenge, and a series of unforced errors from his end contributed to the lopsided score.
The second start started ominously for Fognini, as he faced four break points in the 3rd game. But he came to life and was able to save them all them all after finding some range with his clean ground strokes. The two were deadlocked for most of the set, but Nadal was able to hold serve much more easily than the mercurial Italian.
In the end, serving was the difference maker, as a double fault and a slew of errors from Fognini gave Nadal the decisive break in the 11th game of the 2nd set. Nadal served beautifully the whole match, winning 41 of his 50 service points without facing a single break point, and was able to serve it out after the break at 6-5 with little added fanfare.
He awaits the winner of Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios, who play their blockbuster semi at 7 PM local time tonight. Kyrgios and Federer were slated to play last week at Indian Wells, but the young Australian had to withdraw because of food poisoning. If Federer goes through, it will be their third encounter in 63 days and Nadal will be looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to the Swiss great for the first time in his career. Nadal’s 19 match wins are the most among ATP World Tour players this year. If not for Federer, who is 17-1, the remarkable resurgence of Nadal would definitely be the season’s leading storyline.
Much more coverage to follow from the later rounds of the tournament. If you missed this match, you can relive the action point-by-point right here. Be sure to stay locked in to tennis-pulse for more up-to-the-minute coverage of your favorite players and events.