Three months ago, Federer's career looked cooked as far as championship tennis. It would seem that Federer did everything right during that point, only to be rewarded with a screaming on-the-run victor off the racquet of Nadal.
In watching today's match, things were quite different.
Australian coach Todd Larkham described the three-set thriller as the best game of tennis he's ever seen, outside of the majors. Now totaling 37 meetings, Nadal has led and dominated the rivalry so often- at least until now.
Speaking on court afterwards, Federer said: "First of all, congratulations Rafa on a great comeback yourself".
"At the end of the day I need to look after my health and all parts of my life".
Nadal also had reason to celebrate despite losing. And with the clay court circuit around the corner, Rafa should easily have a few titles under his belt.
But with the way he is playing - Federer is leading the ATP Race to London with almost double the number of points (4,045) that second-placed Nadal has (2,235) and triple Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic's combined total (1,315) - it is hard to question any decision he makes. "I think I am close to what I need to be", he said. "It's been a very good two weeks for me". I thought he had his chances in the first and in the second.
Suddenly, 23-14 doesn't seem so one-sided.
Later on, with the Swiss serving for the match, Nadal had an opportunity and wasted it with a wide backhand at 15-30. It hurt the ATP and WTA, even though the problem appeared restricted to the netherworld of minor league tournaments.
Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot against Roger Federer. It's expected that this year Federer will pass Lendl, but whether or not he will pass Connors is debatable.
March belonged to Maria Sharapova, but not in a good way. In her absence, women's draws will be wide open. She was eventually banished from the game for 15 months. And now, Federer will try to become the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era during the Wimbledon in July. In Miami, the bad news was declining attendance. After all, he did finally win his 18th title at the Australian Open. That ties for the worst by any player at any tournament in the open era. Kyrgios, the 21-year-old hellion, is on the cusp of the top 10. The 6-3 6-4 win is Federer's fourth victory over his greatest rival in a row. Back then he won 33 of his first 34 matches of the year, compared to his current run of 19 wins and one defeat.
But a note of caution is in order.
This was a view tennis didn't expect to see again, Federer racking up the wins and charging up the rankings at 35 like he did at 25. Serena Williams was MIA with a bad knee. He didn't face six-time champion Novak Djokovic or two-time time champion Andy Murray, who missed the tournament because of elbow injuries.
However, it is not inconceivable that Federer would skip the whole clay-court season, including its climax at the French Open. I have good hopes that I'm going to be ready for Monte Carlo. Always when I am playing that well, on clay always helps a little bit more for me. "I am very excited about playing back on clay again".
The 2009 Roland Garros victor will now miss at least three Masters 1000 tournaments in the clay season - Monte Carlo Masters, Madrid Open and Italian Open - during the break. After Indian Wells, he briefly contemplated making some changes because of his spectacular success.
The nine-time Roland Garros champion went down swinging.
He said: "For me, the dream continues".
"I'm moving up in the rankings and I just want to stay healthy".
He also revealed that his surgically repaired left knee acted "really strange" on the clay a year ago.
"Second set, we didn't have many chances on return games". Nadal last reached the finals of a Grand Slam and a hardcourt Masters 1000 tournament last in 2014.
He apparently made the call in victory, telling United States television: "I probably won't play any clay events except the French Open, my body needs healing". "But I have way more".
"I just lost by one point".