With defending champion Andy Murray out of Miami at Djokovic’s hands, by midnight on Sunday all nine Masters 1000 titles and the ATP World Tour finals will be held by either Nadal or Djokovic.
Nadal leads the overall head-to-head 22-17 but Djokovic is well ahead when only hard courts are taken into consideration, leading Nadal 11-7. Furthermore, Nadal has never won the Sony Open title while Djokovic is a three-time titlist in Key Biscayne, winning in 2007, 2011 and 2012.
The last two meetings between the two both went Djokovic’s way, the world no. 2 conceding just seven games in straight-sets victories over Nadal in Beijing and at the World Tour Finals, part of Djokovic’s stunning late-season run in 2013.
Both have played well in Miami this week. Nadal conceded just nine games in early-round victories over Lleyton Hewitt, Denis Istomin and Fabio Fognini before being stretched to three sets by big-serving Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, while Djokovic has beaten Jeremy Chardy, Tommy Robredo and Andy Murray without dropping a set. Any advantage of additional rest which Nadal had over Djokovic after the Serb won the Indian Wells title while Nadal lost early has been neutralized by the walkover Djokovic received in the third round from Florian Mayer which gave him three days’ rest.
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Djokovic made a disappointing start to the season by his own high standards, entering Indian Wells without a title for the first time since 2006 after defeats to Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open and Roger Federer in the semifinals of Dubai, and many were questioning if the Serb, who looked uncharacteristically timid and disproportionately frustrated with his own play, had lost his way – particularly with regards to hiring legend Boris Becker as his new head coach. But Djokovic answered his doubters and, most importantly, himself when he came from a set down to defeat Roger Federer in the final of Indian Wells, a victory which was a huge boost to his confidence, and if the world no. 2 could capture the Miami title as well it will be a powerful statement to the world in general that despite Federer’s resurgence and the emergence of new challengers on the Grand Slam stage, he is still the man to beat.
Nadal, meanwhile, started the year by capturing the Doha title and reaching the final of the Australian Open – defeating Roger Federer along the way – but a back injury flared up during the final and contributed to his stunning four-set defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka. Nadal has not yet proved that he has recovered his rhythm, struggling with almost every aspect of his game in Indian Wells before losing to Alexandr Dolgopolov, and while he has played well in Miami he has not had to beat a top-flight opponent in the past couple of weeks as Djokovic has done, notching up wins over both Federer and Murray.
It’s poised on a knife-edge as Nadal and Djokovic meet, each looking to make history: Nadal wants to capture his first ever Miami title while Djokovic is aiming to become just the second man, after Roger Federer, to complete the Indian Wells-Miami double on two separate occasions.