The Sony Ericsson Open (a tennis event many consider the sport’s fifth “major” after the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and U.S. tournaments), wrapped up in Miami over the weekend with the No.1 and 2 seeds meeting in the men’s singles final after a long interval.

But the disappointment for most was the dismal semifinal that pitted Roger Federer and top-ranked Rafael Nadal. Anticipation was high, as Nadal and Federer (below, after the match) had not competed against each other on American territory in six years. The excitement went poof pretty quickly as “El Torito” (the “little bull,” as I like to call Nadal) literally gored the Swiss “gazelle” in a 6-3, 6-2 trampling. Sadder still were the questions posed to Federer (now #3 in the world) afterwards, as he almost had to plead not to be written off by members of the sports press. (“I’m still only 29,” he exasperatedly countered at one point.)

It’s all such a déjà vu. Looking back on so many champions who went through the same cycle at some point in their careers, it makes you wonder what the compulsion is to run people out of town before their moment has come (of course, this applies not only to tennis). Personally, I would appreciate witnessing Federer’s greatness as long as possible, and as long as he’s competitive.

One speculates about Nadal and his newfound rivalry of the moment with Novak Djokovic (who topped him in the third-set tiebreaker on Sunday). How much time will be allotted the Spaniard, now 24, if similar losses were to continue?