Rafael Nadal vowed to go on the offensive against man-of-the-moment Novak Djokovic in the Sony Ericsson Open final – after the same tactics saw off Roger Federer.
Nadal was terrific in the Miami semi-final as he crushed Federer 6-3 6-2 to improve his record against the 16-time grand slam winner to 15 victories in 23 career meetings.
Federer could not create a single break point against the Nadal serve in the opening set, while Nadal took both of the chances he set up.
Once Nadal breezed into a 3-0 lead early in the second set, the contest looked to be over. Federer briefly threatened a fightback but the crowd’s hopes of a deciding set were soon doused by the irrepressible Spaniard.
After pushing Federer down to third in the world rankings last month, Djokovic is threatening to eject Nadal from the number one spot before long.
The Serbian has made an unbeaten start to the year, landing the Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells titles in the first quarter.
He came from a set down to beat Nadal in the Indian Wells final a fortnight ago, and crushed Mardy Fish 6-3 6-1 to secure his place in this weekend’s final.
Ahead of Sunday’s re-match with Djokovic, Nadal said: “I felt I had a chance last week in Indian Wells. I lost a little bit of focus and rhythm in the second set, the intensity of the legs and of the shots, so I started to play a little bit more defensively.
“Against a player like Novak, it’s impossible to win the match playing like this. So on Sunday I have to play very well all match if I want to have any chance. I have to play aggressively and I have to play all the points, and that’s what I going to try.”
Nadal recognised Djokovic appears to be cruising past most opponents.
“He’s winning very easily in all the matches,” Nadal said. “He hasn’t lost a match this year. He’s playing fantastic. I can just congratulate him about what he did in the first three months of the season.”
On the basis of tonight’s performance in Miami, 29-year-old Federer has a lot of catching up to do to challenge the younger Nadal and Djokovic.
“It wasn’t easy for him tonight because he had the break in both sets very early, so that’s tough,” Nadal said.
“Because I was playing very well from the baseline, without mistakes with my forehand, playing aggressive, it wasn’t an easy situation when you are behind all the time in the score.
“In the second set I felt he wanted to play more aggressive, play shorter points, and probably he didn’t have the perfect feeling to do this.
“Sometimes it works really well because he has a fantastic forehand, fantastic volley, and his movements when he plays inside the court a lot of times are unstoppable. Tonight he had a few mistakes.”
Djokovic will be seeking his second Miami title, having won the event in 2007.