(AP) – Rafael Nadal’s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.
He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.
Thus began Rafa’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.
“A lot of big motivation,” he said.
He is playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0-for-12, it’s Rafa’s longest drought at any event and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.
Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration but let slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.
That was six years ago.
“Against Novak — 6-5, 15-30,” Rafa said. “It didn’t happen.”
The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.
“I’m trying my best every year,” Rafa told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. “I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”