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Feds handed free ride to Rafa clash

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Originally published on: 01/04/11 12:53

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will contest a match in America for the first time since the 2005 Sony Ericsson Open final after both progressed to the last four in Miami.

The Swiss was granted a simple passage into the semi-finals after Gilles Simon retired with a stiff neck just three games into their quarter-final encounter, while Nadal had to rally back from losing the second set to defeat Tomas Berdych.

Reflecting on their long-term rivalry, Federer, who holds an 8-14 losing record against the world No.1 but has beaten the Spaniard in two of their last three meetings, said:

“In the beginning I guess I struggled to embrace the rivalry I had with Rafa. Only later on I was able to say this is actually quite cool.

“Sleeveless, pirate pants, you name it, long hair, lefty, spins, more with the flat shots and so forth and double handed against one handed, lefty against righty. I think it all kind of made sense, and I was able to embrace it then.

“I think we had some good times in the past, and they have changed into what it is today. Really respectful and helping each other for good causes, foundation matches, you name it, for tsunamis. We’ve done so many things together. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Nadal was similarly complimentary of the Swiss.

“It’s always special to play against him and have these matches, very important matches for both of our careers: finals of Roland Garros, finals of Wimbledon, of Australian Open, a lot of finals in Masters 1000s… that makes the rivalry very, very special,” said the Spaniard. “I don’t know if rivals in the rest of the history of tennis played as many matches as we’ve played.”

Nadal will hope to return to 100% for their 23rd career meeting – and their first in America since Federer defeated Nadal to win the 2005 Sony Ericsson Open title – after suffering a problem with his right arm during his quarter-final win over Berdych.

“First time in my life [I felt an injury like this]… really strange,” admitted Nadal post-match. “Especially since the left arm I could do aggressive movements, but the right was really strange. Seriously, I couldn’t understand during the match what happened.”

The world No.1 will have to be up for the battle on Friday night, having lost four of his seven meetings with Federer on a hard court.

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