Rafael Nadal made an impressive debut at Roland Garros in 2005, beating five opponents and facing World No. 1 Roger Federer in the semifinals on his 19th birthday. The Spaniard defeated the Swiss 6-3, 4-6, 6 -4, 6-3 in two hours and 47 minutes, becoming the fifth-youngest finalist in the Open Era.
It was their third meeting and the first in Majors. Rafa beat Roger for the second time and prevented him from reaching the Major title clash that was missing from his collection. Nadal won just 11 more points, serving 73% and defending second serve well to emerge victorious against the more experienced opponent.
The youngster saved six of 12 break points and converted nine break points from 13 chances to seal the deal and set up the clash at the Mariano Puerta. Rafa kept in touch with Roger at the shortest range, up to four shots, and he outplayed him at the most advanced ones, though there wasn’t much separating them.
Federer had more winners and 60 unforced errors, hurting his chances for a better result. The youngster got a break at 15 in the first game and held after two deuces in the next to take an early lead. The Spaniard held serve in the fourth game and hit another break to put him up 4-1 after a forehand winner.
Federer converted the fourth break chance in the sixth game with a backhand winner to reduce the deficit. However, his forehand missed again in the next game to lose serve for a third time to fall 5-2. Nadal wasted two set points on his serve in the eighth game and allowed Federer to extend the set.
However, the youngster closed the set with his fourth break in the ninth game to make it 6-3. The Swiss raised his level after a slight rain delay in the second set, playing better after the opening blow and breaking the Spaniard at 1-1.
Roger converted the fourth break chance in the fifth game to carve out a 4-1 lead and held on to take a game out of the set.
Rafa still wants to win
Speaking on Tennis Channel’s Inside-In podcast recently, sportswriter Chris Oddo reflected on Rafael Nadal’s season, saying that if he can find his best fitness level in 2023, he’ll be the player to beat.
«We forget Rafa because not much has happened for him late, injuries caught up with him, he became a father and a lot of things happened. But two Slams at the beginning of the year and I think he showed me and what I think will continue to be true in the The future is if Rafa can find a way to get that diesel engine going and get to his best physical condition where he’s comfortable with the surface, where he’ll play, he’ll get a little bit of anticipation, his body isn’t giving him any problems, if he reaches At his peak, he can beat anyone and deal damage.
You can do it again next year. I think it’s going to be harder for him to get to that peak fitness, but if he has it and is thriving in his body, he can be the best,» Oddo said.