After one of the best seasons for teenagers, Rafael Nadal had to skip the final event of 2005 due to a left foot injury and the Australian Open next January, returning in Marseille in February and winning the title in Dubai following the victory over Roger Federer.
In the next two weeks, Nadal was among the players to beat in Indian Wells as well, getting broken three times in the first four matches to deliver straight-sets triumphs and set the semi-final clash against James Blake. It was an excellent chance for Rafa to arrange another meeting with Federer who defeated Paradorn Srichaphan in the second semi-final but it wasn't to be for the world's leading players, as Nadal lost to Blake 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 31 minutes.
James ousted Rafa at the US Open last September and gathered the energy from the home crowd again in the desert to grab the second straight win over the Spaniard for the first Masters 1000 final. The American played better on both the first and second serve, fending off five out of six break chances and stealing Nadal's serve thrice to propel himself into the title match in straight sets.
They had a similar number of winners and despite hitting more unforced errors, James forced almost half as many mistakes than Rafa, staying aggressive and delivering one of the finest victories in a career. The American had the advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes and stayed in touch with the Spaniard in the more extended exchanges, enduring all the challenges to topple world no.
2 and remain on the title course. James held at 15 in the first game with a service winner, landing an ace in game three to stay in front and seek the opportunity on the return. It came in the next game when he forced an error from Nadal to open a 3-1 advantage, only to suffer a break in the next game to keep the youngster in contention.
Nadal held at 15 in game six and created a break chance in the next one, denied by Blake who ended his downfall with a service winner, serving well in the rest of the set to keep the pressure on Rafa. The Spaniard failed to reach a tie break, getting broken in the 12th game to hand the opener to his rival, having to work harder in set number two if he wanted to make a turnaround and win.
Facing four break chances in the fifth game of the second set, Blake grabbed four straight points to avoid the setback, earning the crucial break at 4-3 when Nadal sent a backhand long and sealing the deal with four winners in the next game to book the place in the final clash against world no. 1 Roger Federer.