When Rafael Nadal joined Mirka in Roger Federer's box at 17

When Rafael Nadal joined Mirka in Roger Federer’s box at 17

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been friends and rivals for almost two decades. They met numerous times on tour between 2004 and 2019, battling for the most notable titles and pushing each other to seek improvement.

They’ve written many great stories over the years, and one of the earliest happened in Indian Wells in 2004. In March this year, 17-year-old Nadal stunned newly promoted No. 1 Federer in Miami in straight sets, showing his full potential and catching the eyes of the entire tennis world.

Still, their first official match on the tour came a week earlier at the season-opening Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells! Nadal and Tommy Robredo defeated Federer and Yves Allegro in three sets to advance to the quarterfinals.

The future legends and fearsome rivals exchanged kind words at the net and in the dressing room as they stepped onto the pitch together for the first time. One thing led to another and Roger invited Rafa to his quarter-final singles match against Juan Ignacio Chela.

The Spaniard was happy to accept that. He joined Mirka in Roger’s box and paid tribute to the Swiss’ performance after beating the Argentine 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and three minutes.

Rafael Nadal sat next to Mirka during Roger’s game at Indian Wells 2004.

Federer lost serve once and stole nearly 60% of return points to make the difference.

The Swiss broke Chela five times from nine chances to control the scoreboard and finish in the last four for the first time in the desert. They traded breaks in the early stages of the clash, and Roger snagged another break in game five after the rival’s forehand error.

The world’s leading player fired a return winner for another break at 5-2 that set the opener for him. The Wimbledon and Australian Open winner earned another break in the second game of the second set, controlling the scoreboard and racing to a 5-0 lead in no time.

Federer prevailed in the seventh game with a hold at 15 and secured a spot in the semifinals. Nadal received some front row tips and knew how to challenge the tired and exhausted Federer in Miami. He beat him 6-3, 6-3 in 70 minutes to start one of the sport’s greatest rivalries with a well-deserved win, as he did in doubles at Indian Wells.

A teenager became the youngest player to defeat world No. 1. 1 since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990, controlled his games and kept the pressure on the other side. Serving at 81%, Rafa never saw a debut or break point in his games. He delivered three breaks that carried him over the top and into the last 16 on his Miami debut.

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