Rafael Nadal was so eager to reach the Miami Open final that he ran out of his shoe.
Chasing a shot in the second set of Friday’s semifinal, Nadal lost his right sneaker and the point. But he quickly regained his footing and beat unseeded Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5.
Nadal is 0-4 in finals at Key Biscayne, losing in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. He’s playing in the tournament for the 13th time, making it his longest title drought at any event.
“Winning here would be something great, and an important title I haven’t won,” Nadal said.
His opponent Sunday will be the winner of Friday night’s match between Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios. There will be a first-time Key Biscayne women’s champion Saturday when Caroline Wozniacki plays Johanna Konta.
Nadal, seeded fifth, eliminated Fognini without facing a break point, and lost only nine of 46 points on his serve.
Fognini, the first unseeded men’s semifinalist since 2007, looked listless at the start in 86-degree sunshine. He finished with 38 unforced errors, compared with 12 for Nadal.
“I was missing a lot of balls,” Fognini said. “I give him a present the first set. I was playing really bad.”
Said Nadal: “Fabio is a player who is able to combine great points with mistakes. The match became strange _ not a lot of rhythm. The second set was tough.”
The crowd chanted Fognini’s first name in an attempt to get the Italian going, and flying footwear did the job. Fognini hit a drop shot to cause the sneaker malfunction, laughed at length while Nadal retied his shoe and played better after that.
Nadal said he also lost a shoe while practicing recently, the only other time he can remember it happening to him.
“Strange,” he said. “Maybe I need to tie it stronger.”
The second set was up for grabs until Fognini double-faulted to fall behind 6-5. Nadal then served out the match at love.
“I served well,” he said. “That gives you calm when you have opportunities on the return.”
Nadal improved to 19-4 this year and leads the men’s tour in wins.