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Usually the main event, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have to meet in semifinals in Key Biscayne

Roger Federer, Of Switzerland, AcknowledegesEither Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal has held the number one ranking in men’s tennis every week since early 2004.

Here are some excerpts from an AP story previewing their next meeting: They have played each other 22 times on hard courts, grass and clay. Now, for the first time in six years, the best rivalry in tennis is back on U.S. soil.

Rafa and Roger will meet Friday night in the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open. Their most recent matchup in North America took place on the same court in 2005, when Federer beat Nadal for the Key Biscayne title.

Nadal vs. Federer has played out in eight countries and one principality on four continents, producing some of the sport’s most dramatic moments. Federer owns a record 16 Grand Slam titles but is only 8-14 against Nadal, including 2-6 in major tournaments. They’ve tussled on even terms in recent years for the No. 1 ranking.

“We have that history, and nobody can take it away from us,” Federer said. “We’ve played in so many big finals against each other, and were able to play over four or five tough sets and have always shown a lot of respect toward each other. If you win, great; if you lose, that’s OK, too, as long as you tried everything and learned something. But I am planning to win.”

Their first meeting was at Key Biscayne in 2004, when a 17-year-old Nadal upset Federer in the third round. Federer was then in the midst of a record five-year reign at No. 1, but he lost six of the first seven times he played Nadal—and found it most annoying.

“Early on in my career, when I became the world No. 1, 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. 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.’ He was sleeveless with pirate pants, long hair, a lefty. … It all kind of made sense, and I was able to embrace it then.”

Federer won the most recent matchup for the title in the ATP World Tour Finals in London last November. Nadal won their only other meeting last year in the Madrid final.

While most of their showdowns have been in finals between Nos. 1 and 2, they’ll play this time in the semis because Federer recently slipped to third in the rankings behind Novak Djokovic. The other match Friday pits the Serb against American Mardy Fish.

“We really get up for these kind of matches against each other because we know the world is watching,” Federer said. “We always have these incredible points and incredible matches.”

  Rafael Nadal Of Spain Celebrates



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