Rafael Nadal played his first ATP match at home in Mallorca in 2002 at 15, passing the first round and becoming one of the players to watch in the future. The Spaniard cracked the top-50 already in 2003 after a great mixture of deep runs at Challengers and first notable results on the ATP Tour.
Rafa reached the third round in Monte Carlo and Hamburg in his first Masters 1000 events on his beloved clay and scored two wins at Wimbledon as one of the youngest players in the Open era. Nadal couldn't play at Roland Garros that year due to an injury, with the same scenario repeating a year later when he had to skip all the action between April and July due to an ankle injury.
Eager to show his full potential, Rafa bounced back stronger in 2005, advancing into the first Masters 1000 final in Miami and missing a chance to beat world no. 1 Roger Federer in straight sets. Nadal left the Miami defeat behind him and reached another Masters 1000 title match a couple of weeks later in Monte Carlo, facing the defending champion Guillermo Coria in the battle for the trophy.
Rafael Nadal spoke about Roland Garros after winning Monte Carlo in 2005.
After three hours and nine minutes, Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to become the second-youngest Masters 1000 champion after Michael Chang at 18 years and ten months.
The youngster played on a high level in sets one and two, dictating the rallies with his forehand and crumbling Coria on the return to forge a massive advantage. The Argentine bounced back in set number three with a bagel and erased a 4-1 deficit in the fourth to stay alive.
Still, Nadal scored a late break to seal the deal and celebrate his first Masters 1000 crown. Thrilled about the victory, Rafa said that he would never forget his first notable title, although he still had to work hard on improvements to make his game even better.
Also, Nadal stated that he is not the favorite at Roland Garros, never playing in Paris before due to injuries and focusing on the upcoming events in Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg first. "I'm not the favorite at Roland Garros.
I never played in Paris, and I only think about my next tournaments in Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg. I'm playing well now, but it's not sure I will keep that momentum until Roland Garros. If I maintain this level, I will have a chance.
I will have a week off after Barcelona and will use that to recover. After that, I'm entering two Masters events, followed by another week off ahead of Roland Garros. Playing best-of-five finals at Masters is excellent preparation for Majors," Rafael Nadal said.