The Only Major Tournament Where Rafael Nadal Has Lost in Five Finals…

… Without ever winning the title

Vickey Maverick
The Press Box
Published in
5 min readMar 20


Rafael Nadal in action at the 2015 Miami Open [Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons]

If a list of the best men’s singles players of all time is made, Rafael Nadal will rank very high, both in terms of statistics and his overall impact on the game. The Spaniard’s career, spanning two decades, is a saga of stupendous successes and superhuman achievements.

For starters, Nadal holds a joint-record 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles — along with Serbian Novak Djokovic. The 36-year-old is the first man in tennis history to win Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces in a calendar year — what is termed as the Surface Slam.

Following his win at the 2010 US Open, Nadal, then only 24 years in age, became the youngest player in the Open Era (from 1969 onwards) to achieve the career Grand Slam. Add the singles gold medal he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Spaniard becomes only the second player, apart from Andre Agassi, to have achieved the Career Golden Slam in the men’s singles category — titles at all the four major tournaments as also the singles gold at the Olympics.

The Mallorca-born has also won a record 36 Masters Series titles as also the most clay court titles (63). In fact, his dominance on the red dirt can be further bolstered by the fact that Rafa’s 81 consecutive wins on clay is the longest single-surface win streak, on any surface (in the Open Era).

More importantly, he has won the French Open — by far the toughest of the four Grand Slam — a record 14 times. Likewise, he has won historic tournaments like the Monte-Carlo Masters, Italian Open and the Barcelona Open on 10 or more occasions.

These aforementioned are not just records. They are superhuman efforts.

The ones that got left out

That being said, even the greatest of players have missed out on winning a major title or two. Their otherwise impressive trophy cabinets are bereft of some major trophy or the other.

When it comes to Nadal, there are three important tournaments that the Spaniard is yet to win. First and foremost in the list is the season-ending championship, or what is better known as the ATP Finals. Despite of making it to final, both in 2010 and 2013, Nadal is yet to win the coveted title in 11 attempts.

Then, there’s the Paris Masters. While the Spaniard has dominated at the Roland Garros, the Bercy neighborhood of the French Capital has shown no mercy towards the player’s credentials and reputation. Nadal did make the final of the tournament on his debut appearance (in 2007). That being said, he is yet to win this trophy despite of competing on nine occasions.

However, no tournament has left the Spaniard more disappointed than the Miami Open — the second leg of the “Sunshine Double”. Despite of having won the Indian Wells Masters, the first leg of the aforementioned double, Nadal has always been forced to return empty-handed from his 13 forays in Florida.

The disappointment is even more significant considering the fact that Nadal has featured in the title clash in Miami on as many as five occasions. At no other tournament has the Spaniard played in so many finals without ever winning the title.

Causing an upset… Before getting upset

Miami happened to be the venue where Nadal had made his first significant impact at a global stage.

Coming into the 2004 edition, Nadal was considered a promising youngster alright, but had little to show in terms of tangible results. The Spaniard was yet to win an ATP Tour title, although he had made it to the title clash in Auckland that year — losing to Dominik Hrbaty.

The young player benefitted from former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević’s withdrawal in the second round of Miami. His third round opponent was a certain Roger Federer, the reigning Wimbledon champion. It was the first time they faced each other, the first of the 39 such meetings.

The Spaniard came out on tops, getting the better of the world’s top-ranked player for the loss of just six games. Nadal, albeit, couldn’t capitalize on his upset of the Swiss maestro, losing in his fourth round match against Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

An encore, albeit with a different outcome

The 2005 Miami Open witnessed a second clash of Federer and Nadal, on this occasion in the final. To his credit, the Spaniard had considerably improved credentials coming into this tournament.

Besides winning his maiden ATP title, in Poland in the previous year, Nadal had also been victorious on two more occasions, on the Latin America clay swing (Brazil and Mexico) in February. The Spaniard beat 2002 Australian Open winner Thomas Johansson (in the last eight) en route to setting up a final with the reigning no.1.

It was the first of the 24 tournament finals between the Spaniard and the Swiss. Building on his impressive performance of the previous year, the former took a two-set lead in the decider.

However, Federer was not to be denied on this occasion. He came to win 2–6, 6–7 (4), 7–6 (5), 6–3, 6–1 to win the first of his three titles in Miami.

The final remained a hurdle

The Swiss maestro’s third Miami title would also come at the expense of the Spaniard, a 6–3, 6–4 verdict in the 2017 final.

In between the two losses meted out by his great rival, Nadal made it to the final of the Miami Open on three more occasions, only to be at the receiving end on each one of them.

Russian Nikolay Davydenko, one of the few players to have a better head-to-head record against Nadal, had it fairly easy in the 2008 final (6–4, 6–2). Djokovic edged him by a whisker (4–6, 6–3, 7–6) in the 2011 final, but the Serb was a lot more dominant (6–3, 6–3) in the decider in 2014.

And the wait continues…

The main draw for the 2023 Miami Open, that commenced this week, doesn’t feature Nadal. The Spaniard is not playing in Miami for a fifth straight edition. In fact, since losing to Roger Federer in the 2017 final, Nadal has not featured in the subsequent tournament draws in Florida.

The player withdrew from the recent tournament in Indian Wells due to a left leg injury. The withdrawal meant he dropped out of the top 10 in the ATP Tour rankings for the first time since his top 10 debut in 2005, thereby ending a record streak (of 912 weeks).

The withdrawal from the Miami Open was very much on expected lines. That Nadal wants to be fully fit before the claycourt season doesn’t come across as a surprise either.

That being said, the Spaniard’s match record at the Miami Open remains static at 40–12, in 13 appearances in Florida — Nadal had pulled out of his semi-final against Andy Murray in the 2012 edition. As such, along with the Paris Masters, Miami is the only Masters Series tournament that Nadal is yet to win in his illustrious career.

Taking into account the fact that the Spaniard has played in as many as five finals in Florida, the Miami Open can by far be considered as the most disappointing of Nadal’s performances when it comes to tangible results.



Vickey Maverick
The Press Box

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