“At the moment, we have that history and nobody can take it away from us,” explains Roger.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will do battle on an American court for the first time in six years on Friday after the great rivals set up a semi-final showdown at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Federer’s quarter-final opponent Gilles Simon retired from their match due to a neck injury, when the Frenchman trailed 3-0 in the first set, allowing the world number three to conserve his energy. In contrast, world number one Nadal had to work hard to seal a place in the last four, beating Tomas Berdych 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Swiss Federer and Spaniard Nadal have played each other 22 times, with Nadal winning on 14 occasions. Their first two matches both came in Miami, in 2004 and 2005. A teenage Nadal won the first, causing a sensation, and Federer took his revenge in the following year’s final. But since then their matches have surprisingly all been played outside the United States, meaning there is obvious anticipation for their semi-final. Although Novak Djokovic has managed to come between them this season, rising to number two in the rankings, Federer admitted: “My number one rival to me it seems is Rafa. “It doesn’t matter how many more times I’m going to be playing all the other guys. “At the moment, we have that history and nobody can take it away from us. “That’s why the only thing really missing from us is a US Open match, I guess, and maybe a few other tournaments.”

Federer explained why the emergence of Nadal, who at the age of 24 is five years his junior, has been so positive for men’s tennis, even if he did not immediately welcome the competition. “I think in the beginning, early on in my career when I became the world number one, I didn’t really have that rival, and I was very happy about it,” Federer said. “I was just able to win, win, win, and dominate and go on and lose 10 matches in two years, that kind of thing. That was quite incredible. “So 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.”

Federer added: “What we know is that it moves very quickly in terms of how the press reacts to results and losses and wins and so forth, ranking swaps. So that’s just part of the game. But I think the players look more in the long term. You can’t be too rattled about quick news. “I think the press knows that as well. At the same time, we have to come up with a story at the very moment. That’s completely understandable. It’s fine. I also like good headlines for tennis. I don’t want them to be boring and always the same.”



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