Nadal and federer to face off in Miami final

Another spectacular performance from Roger Federer carried him into the perfect Miami final against his great rival Rafael Nadal. But the trophy match will do well to live up to this semi-final against Nick Kyrgios, which polarised the crowd to such an extent that it often felt like a pantomime.

In a match between the most popular man in tennis and the most misunderstood, the fans played a significant role in pushing Federer over the line. And not just by lifting his spirits. As Kyrgios served at 5-4 in the deciding tie-break, needing only two points for victory, a voice from the crowd yelled “out” as he set up for a difficult forehand from behind the baseline.

Kyrgios promptly shanked the shot well wide and then started remonstrating with the fan in furious fashion. “Oh my god, shut up!” he shouted. “Shut the f--- up! What the f--- are you doing?”

Nick Kyrgios stretches for a shot against Roger Federer  CREDIT: GETTY
He could have been docked a penalty point for audible obscenity, given that he had already been warned once. But umpire Mohamed Lahyani probably felt that the provocation had been extreme.

In any case, Kyrgios didn’t recover. He double-faulted on the next point, and then Federer completed a memorable 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 victory with an unreturned serve. As the victor celebrated in unusually demonstrative fashion, throwing every one of his towels into the crowd, Kyrgios smashed his racket into the court surface over and over again. As he stomped out of the arena, he received a mixture of applause – which felt deserved, given the extraordinary standard of this 3hr 10min contest – and jeers.

Federer and Kyrgios have now faced off twice on the ATP tour, with one win apiece, and all six sets have gone to tie-breaks. On Friday, the only breaks of serve came in the opener. Kyrgios moved ahead at 4-3 with a combative game in which he used Federer’s own tactic – the SABR, or sneak attack on the opponent’s serve – against him. But he couldn’t serve out at 5-4 and then had a set point robbed from him when Federer produced the most magical combination of backhands: a short sliced service return followed by a winning topspin drive up the line.

The second set featured one of the many mind-boggling ’tweeners that Kyrgios has produced during this tournament, as he came forward and passed a befuddled Federer at the net with an outrageous piece of touch. He also saved two match points to take the tie-break 11-9.

But fate was not on Kyrgios’s side in that deciding tie-breaker, and Federer also produced a couple of moments of genius, notably another magical backhand pass up the line on the opening point. “It was a great feeling to play like this,” said Federer in his on-court interview. “It was a lot of fun and you guys [the crowd] made it super special so thank you very much.

 “I was feeling pretty happy sitting down [after the second set] because it was one set all. I could have lost the first. I was trying to stay positive, and for you guys it was worthwhile to stay more, because the atmosphere only got more epic.”

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