Rafael Nadal'S First Australian Open - Who Stopped Him? 

Rafael Nadal’s first Australian Open

Rafael Nadal kicked off his 18th Australian Open campaign with a hard-fought victory over British youngster Jack Draper. Rafa made his Melbourne debut in 2004 at age 17 and made it through the first two rounds to enter the last 32. The Spaniard earned more than 150 ATP rankings spots in 2003, reaching six Challenger finals and winning two titles.

A teenager showcased his skills at Wimbledon and Masters 1000 events, proving his great talent and wishing for more in 2004. Rafa reached his first ATP final in Auckland, beating four opponents and falling to Dominik Hrbaty after a massive battle.

Nadal traveled to Melbourne and made a winning debut at the Australian Open. A teenager defeated qualifier Michal Tabara 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 17 minutes, dominating serve and return from start to finish.

Rafael Nadal played in the third round of the Australian Open at age 17.

The Spaniard had to push himself much harder in the second round against Thierry Ascione, prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 in just under three hours.

Rafa delivered a late break in the third set and crossed the finish line with a strong performance in the fourth. Thus, he advanced to the third round and set up a blockbuster clash against crowd favorite Lleyton Hewitt.

The youngster gave his best against the local star. He experienced a 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 defeat in two and a half hours after getting chances in sets one and two. Lleyton lost serve twice and took four breaks, prevailing in the closing moments of sets one and two and leaving the young rival behind in the third, saving more energy and sealing the deal without spending any more time on court.

«I played well throughout the match, my performance was excellent tonight, as was the overall match. I had chances to maybe win at least one set, which I couldn’t do. I started to feel a bit tired towards the end; the physical aspects began to catch up with me.

Still, I was delighted with my performance. He was nervous at the beginning of the game, like everyone else; I don’t think the 15,000 people intimidated me that much. I was playing Center Court in a major tournament, which might have affected me to some degree, but certainly not much.

Lleyton is a great player; he performed at a very high level. The forehand is my strongest shot, and his forehand worked great too; that’s why he won in the end», said Rafael Nadal.

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