Rafael Nadal: 'I had doubts throughout the match, I barely saw some balls'

Tennis - Nadal trailed against the hard-hitting Croat Ivan Ljubicic in the 2005 Madrid final before beating him in five sets

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal: 'I had doubts throughout the match, I barely saw some balls'

Rafael Nadal was the second-strongest link on the Tour in 2005, winning 11 ATP titles and standing alongside Roger Federer and miles ahead of the others. The Spanish teenager won the first Major crown at Roland Garros and added four Masters 1000 trophies to his name for one of the greatest seasons for players of his age in tennis history.

In his last event of the season, Rafa had to deal with knee tendonitis at home in Madrid, still beating all five rivals to lift his first and only indoor hard crown. In the title match, the Spaniard lost the opening two sets against an in-form Croat Ivan Ljubicic before prevailing 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and 53 minutes.

Ljubicic left the youngster far behind in the opening two sets, serving bullets and taking charge on the return to move closer to the finish line in style. Starting all over, Nadal raised his level in sets three and four and prevailed over the opponent in the deciding set tie break to celebrate in front of the partisan crowd.

Rafael Nadal won an epic 2005 Madrid Masters final over Ivan Ljubicic.

Ivan won nine points more than Rafa and built a massive lead before the home star started to climb back, saving eight out of 13 break chances and crossing the finish line first.

Despite knee tendonitis and a foot injury, Nadal survived a four-hour battle and secured already the fourth Masters 1000 title of his young career. Two great rivals traded breaks at the beginning of the final set, and Nadal survived deuces at 3-4 to stay in contention.

Four good holds sent them into a tie break, where Nadal opened a 3-0 lead with a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner. Two crucial points on serve moved the youngster 5-2 up, and he grabbed another mini-break after Ljubicic's tired forehand to create three match points.

A teenager converted the first following another netted forehand from the Croat to fall to the ground in disbelief, starting a massive celebration of what has been one of his most memorable triumphs on the Tour ever. "I had doubts throughout the match, trailing two sets to love and with Ljubicic playing great tennis.

He had over 30 aces, and I didn't even see the ball many times. There were games with two or three aces, and it's not easy to play against that and win your service games. However, I was looking forward to winning something. I was enthusiastic and strong mentally; that earned the victory for me. Also, I started playing more aggressive tennis with my forehand, which helped a lot," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Ivan Ljubicic