Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been friends and rivals for nearly two decades. They met countless times on the Tour between 2004 and 2019, competing for the most notable titles and challenging each other to seek improvements.
They’ve created many great stories over the years, and one of the earliest took place at Indian Wells 2004. In March of that year, 17-year-old Nadal stunned newly promoted world No. 1 Federer in straight sets in Miami, taking he showed his full potential and caught the attention of the entire tennis world.
Still, their first official game 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 reach the quarterfinals.
The future legends and formidable rivals exchanged sweet words at the net and in the dressing room as they stood together on the pitch for the first time. One thing led to another and Roger invited Rafa to his singles quarterfinal against Juan Ignacio Chela.
The Spaniard was only too happy to accept that. He joined Mirka in Roger’s penalty area and acknowledged the Swiss’s achievement after knocking over the Argentine 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and three minutes.
Rafael Nadal sat next to Mirka during Roger’s 2004 Indian Wells match.
Federer lost his serve once and stole almost 60% of the return points to forge the difference.
The Swiss broke Chela out of nine chances to check the scoreboard five times and raced into the last four for the first time in the desert. They traded breaks in the early stages of the clash and Roger picked up another in the fifth game after a forehand error from the rival.
The world’s leading player fired off a comeback winner for another break at 5-2 that delivered the opener for him. The Wimbledon and Australian Open champions scored another break in the second game of the second set, checked the scoreboard and raced to a 5-0 lead in no time.
Federer went over the top with a hold on 15 in game seven to book a place in the semifinals. With some front row tips, Nadal challenged the tired and exhausted Federer in Miami. He beat him 6-3, 6-3 in 70 minutes to kick off one of the biggest rivalries in the sport with a well-deserved win, as he did in the doubles at Indian Wells.
A teenager became the youngest player to beat the world number 1. 1 since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990, everything under control in his games and the pressure on the other side. Rafa served with 81% and never experienced a deuce or a break point in his games. He delivered three breaks that carried him over the top and into the last 16 on his Miami debut.