Today at the Miami Open the afternoon gives us a Federer/Berdych match and the evening delivers the second edition of the Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios rivalry. It’s interesting, though, that while a face-off between higher seeded players is usually more interesting (or any match involving Federer), in this case a lot of people are really excited about the Zverev and Kyrgios match-up. There’s a buzz, and you can feel it around the grounds of the Miami Open, on Twitter and back home in our office, as well.
Alexander Zverev says bring it on at the Miami Open
These Kids Can Play
We referred to it as a rivalry, but it’s not quite that. It’s the second match between two immensely talented kids, with Kyrgios at 21 and Zverev just 19. They just played for the first time two weeks ago, in the 3rd round of the Quarter of Death at the BNP Paribas Open, with Kyrgios winning 3 and 4. Kyrgios was in great form that week, dismissing Zverev and Djokovic before handing Federer a walkover, and providing a very calm, mature press conference along the way. It was an impressive week for the young Aussie and two weeks later, he’s still looking sharp.
Remember Miami 2004?
But the excitement over today’s match isn’t about who advances to the semis today. Rather, it’s about recreating the past and hoping that we might, just possibly, be looking at the future of our sport. We want this future because many of us feel like it’s one we can finally get behind. There are characters; we have a hero and a villain. We have shotmaking and athleticism. We have two huge stars, and it’s what we’ve been searching for, especially in those dark days of 2016 without Rafa and Roger when we, collectively, couldn’t sleep and stared at the ceiling wondering who would take our sport on their backs.
The past I’m referring to is the 2004 ATP Masters Series Miami hosted in the very same Crandon Park Tennis Center, in which a spirited, 18 year-old Rafael Nadal upset 23 year-old world #1 Roger Federer in their first-ever meeting. Rafa, wearing long hair, no sleeves and normal-length shorts, won 3 and 3.
A year later, they met again in Miami and Federer won in 5 (five! Remember those days?). And so began one of the most defining rivalries of the sport of tennis.
Tweeners and More
Today as we watch the handsome and flowing German teenager take on the edgy, infuriating and frequently charming Nick Kyrgios, it’s hard not to wonder what it is exactly we’re watching. Sure, there will be exceptional court coverage and amazing shot-making. Of course, there will be at least one tweener from Kyrgios, and I’ll predict no less than two look-away drop shots from him as well. Plus aces galore. Zverev will bring some aces, plus run-around forehand winners for sure.
But will this be the genesis of a rivalry for the ages? Will we know from this match what the next ten years of tennis have in store for us? Maybe, but first we’ll see how the winner does against Federer the next day.