Rafael Nadal reacting at Australian Open

The five best ATP players without a Miami Open title

As an ATP Masters 1000 event, the Miami Open is one of the biggest tournaments in men’s tennis outside of the four Grand Slams. Since being founded in 1985, it is a title which even some of the game’s all-time great players – past and present – have missed out on.

With the 2021 edition set to begin here Tennishead looks at five great ATP players who have played the Miami Open but been unable to lift the trophy:


Rafael Nadal 

A five-time runner-up in Miami – Nadal has come close more times than anyone else without winning the title. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has played in the event 13 times since first appearing in 2004, also reaching the semi-finals in 2010 and 2012.

Nadal first made the Miami Open final in 2005 – a year after he stunned Roger Federer in the third round in the pair’s first meeting. The top seed Federer got the better of his now great rival Nadal – who was seeded 29th – this time.

The Spaniard won the first two sets of the Masters series final – which were then best-of-five sets. Federer, though, crucially recovered from 1-4 down in the third set, before edging it in a tiebreak. The Swiss then took the fourth and fifth sets to win an epic battle 2-6, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-1.

Nadal next made the final in 2008 where – as the second seed – he was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko. The current world No. 3 reached his third Miami title match three years later in 2011 – where he was the top seed. After defeating Federer in the semi-finals, Nadal fell 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7) to his other great rival – the second seed Novak Djokovic – in a high-quality final.

In 2014, second seed Djokovic beat top seed Nadal in the final again – this time 6-3, 6-3. Nadal’s fifth and most recent Miami Open championship match came in 2017. Seeded fifth, the Spaniard lost 3-6, 4-6 to fourth seed Federer – in what was a resurgent season for both.

At 34, Nadal could still win the Miami Open – a rare big title missing from his collection. He is not playing this year, though, and has not featured at the event since that 2017 final.

Jimmy Connors

Eight-time major winner Jimmy Connors played the Miami Open – then known as the Lipton International Players Championships – six times. He first featured in the event’s second edition in 1986 – where he was seeded third.

The American reached the semi-finals and was defaulted during the fifth set of his match against top seed Ivan Lendl. Connors was penalised a point and a game to trail 2-5 after disputing a line call, and he was then defaulted for delaying and refusing to play. As the seventh seed, he made the last four again a year later – losing to top seed Lendl again – this time in four close sets.

In 1988, the second seed Connors made his only final at the tournament – then held in Key Biscayne. After beating third seed Miroslav Mecir in the semi-finals, he was defeated 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 by top seed Mats Wilander.

The following year, the fourth-seeded American lost in the fourth round to Kevin Curren from 2-0 sets up. Connors made the second round as a wildcard in 1991, and the third round as the 30th seed in his final Key Biscayne appearance in 1992.

John McEnroe

John McEnroe – a winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles – only appeared at the Lipton Championships once. That was in 1992 – the same edition his great rival Connors featured for the final time, and the year McEnroe retired.

The American, who was seeded 28th, reached the fourth round – where he lost 6-7 (3-7), 4-6 to 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. McEnroe had beaten another future Wimbledon champion – fifth seed Goran Ivanisevic – 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the third round.

Boris Becker

Six-time major champion Boris Becker had a poor record in Key Biscayne – winning only eight of the 14 matches he played across eight appearances. The German, seeded fourth, first featured in 1986 – losing to Milan Srejber in the third round.

Becker withdrew ahead of his first round match the following year, and next appeared in 1990 – where he was the second seed. He was beaten in the third round by Jean-Philippe Fleurian. Seeded second again in 1991, Becker fell at the same stage – losing in straight sets to Patrick McEnroe.

The German then achieved his best result at the tournament in 1992 by reaching the fourth round. The third seed lost to 20th seed Alberto Mancini in three sets in the last 16. Becker withdrew due to injury ahead of his third round match against Nicklas Kulti the following year.

In 1994, tenth seed Becker once again exited at the third round stage – losing in straight sets to 24th seed Andre Agassi. The German made his final appearance in Key Biscayne at the 1999 event – the year of his retirement. Unseeded, Becker was beaten in the second round by 23rd seed Marat Safin in straight sets.

Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg – rival of Becker and another six-time Grand Slam singles champion – played the Lipton Championships on nine occasions. He reached the quarter-finals of the inaugural edition in 1985 as the 13th seed – losing to Scott Davis in straight sets.

Seeded fifth the following year, Edberg made the semi-finals – where he was forced to retire when down a set against second seed and compatriot Mats Wilander.

The Swede was seeded second in 1987 and fell in the last eight to ninth seed Mecir in four sets, having won the opening set. Edberg next appeared at the event three years later in 1990 – where he achieved his best result. Seeded third, he reached the final where fifth seed Agassi defeated him 6-1, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.

Edberg was the top seed in 1991 and he was beaten by the unseeded David Wheaton in a straight-set semifinal. After a third round exit in 1992, the third-seeded Swede made the quarter-finals the following year – losing to fifth seed Petr Korda in two tiebreaks.

Seeded second, he then made the last eight again in 1994 – where he was defeated by 24th seed Agassi in straight sets. Edberg made the second round in 1995, and the fourth round in his final appearance in 1996 – the year he retired. The unseeded Swede lost to Arnaud Boetsch in his last Key Biscayne match.

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.