Since the event's start in 1985, a lot of epic battles have played out in Crandon Park. (Getty)

Few tournaments have changed as much as the Miami Open has in its 30-year existence. Once it was a five-set final affair; now it’s three. It has been through many name and sponsor changes like the Lipton, Nasdaq-100 and Ericsson Open. As it undergoes yet another change in 2019, this time a change in venue from Crandon Park to Hard Rock Stadium, let's celebrate five of the most important ATP finals to take place on its courts.

1

Pete Sampras vs. Gustavo Kuerten (2000 final)

Sampras, winding down his career by the time spring 2000 rolled around, looked far from finished as he stood across the net from the charismatic Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten. Their styles and careers couldn’t have been more different. Kuerten was a 23 year-old clay court specialist who preferred to camp out on the baseline. Sampras was a 32-year-old serve-and-volley maestro with little feel for the clay but the perfect game for grass. Naturally, an outdoor hardcourt would be the great equalizer between the two. After a lopsided first set, Sampras and Kuerten duked it out over three wildly entertaining tiebreaks, the final of which saw Kuerten save six match points before Sampras prevailed 6-1, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8).

2

Andre Agassi vs. Roger Federer (2002 final)

The year 2002 turned out to be his arch-rival Sampras’s final season, but by then Agassi had found himself contending with a promising Sampras acolyte: Roger Federer. Agassi would win their first three matches, the last being this spirited 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 Miami final. A shift was already underway as Federer established himself as the future of the sport. He would win his first major the following year at Wimbledon and never lose to Agassi again.

3

Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal (2011 final)

As it had in 2005, the 2011 Miami Open final helped usher in another storied rivalry in the Golden Era of tennis: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal. Prior to 2011, Djokovic had trouble solving Nadal, and it seemed the Spaniard had started to put some distance between himself and the rest of the tour, including his great rival Roger Federer.

Heading into the Miami final, though, Djokovic had reason to believe he’d found an answer. Just prior, Djokovic had bested Nadal in Indian Wells. He used his newfound confidence to withstand Nadal’s opening 6-4 salvo and assert himself 6-3 in the second set. The third set featured a physicality that would go on to define their rivalry before Djokovic prevailed 7-6 (4) in the tiebreak. His completion of the “Sunshine Double” would propel him to one of the greatest seasons in Open era history with 10 titles, three Grand Slams, and a 70-6 record.

4

Tim Mayotte vs. Scott Davis (1985 final)

Tim Mayotte and Scott Davis might not be household names, but on this day, at the very first Miami final, they were more than worthy of the occasion. Davis looked to be the more inspired of the two serve-and-volleyers, taking the first two sets 6-4, 6-4, but then, as though he sensed this was one of the most important matches he’d ever play, Mayotte ratcheted up his aggression and prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 over the final three sets. The first Miami final turned out to be one of the best.

5

Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal (2005 final)

The 2005 final between Federer and Nadal is one of the most important matches in history. They’d met for the first time a year earlier in the third round of Miami, and the teenage Nadal shocked Federer 6-3, 6-3.

When they met again in the 2005 final, it looked as though the result might be the same. Nadal raced out to a 6-2, 7-6 (4) lead. Realizing that the Spaniard was on a mission to supplant him as the best player in the world, Federer answered in kind. After claiming the third set 7-6 (5), Federer wore down Nadal to win the final sets 6-3, 6-1. 

The result of the match was almost beside the point. Nadal had proved his ceiling was limitless and that Federer would have to contend with him for years to come.


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