By October 2005, the 19-year-old Rafael Nadal had already achieved a lot, becoming a Major winner and world no. 2. Still, he had never come from two sets to love down in the best-of-five encounters before the Madrid Masters final.
On October 23, Rafa took down Ivan Ljubicic 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and 53 minutes for his 11th title of the season and the fourth at the Masters 1000 level. Ljubicic arrived in the Spanish capital in a great spirit, winning Metz and Vienna in the previous two weeks and conquering 16 matches in a row before the Nadal clash!
The Croat built two sets to love lead, took nine points more than the youngster and created 13 break chances. Still, that wasn't enough to cross the finish line first and claim his career-best title after falling short in the deciding tie break for a heartbreaking loss.
Nadal played well during the entire week despite knee tendonitis, beating Victor Hanescu, Tommy Robredo, Radek Stepanek and Robby Ginepri in straight sets to reach the final. He had to survive over 80 winners from Ljubicic to emerge as a winner, passing all the challenges to lift the trophy in front of the partisan crowd.
The Croat had 56 service winners, landed over 40 from his forehand, backhand and volleys, and kept the points on his racquet to dominate the court in sets one and two. On the other hand, he had to make many unforced errors against such a strong rival from the baseline, and that was Nadal's chance to get back on the scoreboard and stay in touch until the closing stages.
Rafael Nadal came from two sets to love down against Ivan Ljubicic in Madrid 2005.
Rafa tamed his shots nicely and fended off eight out of 13 break chances in eight different service games to limit the damage and stay competitive.
Ivan had to play against nine break opportunities, and Rafa grabbed four breaks, enough to win sets three and four and get himself in a position to play with momentum on his side in the decider. Had Ivan found a way to win this clash, it would have been entirely deserved, as he succeeded in his intentions to overpower Rafa in the shortest points and stay in touch with him in the mid-range and longer rallies.
Still, he couldn't create a more significant lead in the exchanges up to four strokes (91-80), having to settle with the runner-up spot despite a fantastic effort. "I never came from two sets to love down before. The crowd was the key element in my victory.
Elsewhere in the world, it would have been impossible to defeat Ljubicic. Thanks to them, I won this final," Rafael Nadal said.