Rafael Nadal was a player on the mission in the opening months of the 2005 season, winning two titles on beloved clay and standing two points away from the Miami crown. Roger Federer toppled the youngster in that epic Florida final, and Nadal needed no time to bounce back, conquering the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo following a hard-fought victory over Guillermo Coria in over three hours.
A week later, Rafa lifted the trophy in front of the home fans in Barcelona and took a well-deserved week off before making the Rome debut. Missing the event in the Italian capital in the previous two years due to injuries, Nadal was the title favorite despite still being 18.
Rafa reached the third straight Masters 1000 final after a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over his compatriot David Ferrer in two and a half hours.
Rafael Nadal could face Andre Agassi in the final in Rome 2005.
Nadal suffered six breaks from seven chances offered to the fellow Spaniard, digging deep and securing seven return games from nine break chances, enough to cross the finish line first.
David had more winners and more errors, staying in touch with Rafa in the more extended rallies and losing ground slightly in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes. Nadal grabbed an early lead, and Ferrer bounced back with a break in game eight to gather momentum and secure another break at 5-4 to clinch the opener in style.
The second set saw back-to-back breaks in games three and four and again at 3-3. The opponents stayed neck and neck until the crucial break for Rafa in game nine, as he sealed the set with a hold at love to gain a boost ahead of the decider.
Nadal served for the victory at 5-4 but got broken, missing the first opportunity to seal the deal. Nonetheless, the youngster stayed composed and grabbed eight of the last nine points to emerge at the top before a tie break and secure a place in the title match against Andre Agassi or Guillermo Coria.
The youngster wished to play against Agassi before the veteran retires, believing that Rome is a perfect place for that duel. "David was the better player in sets one and two, but I got back into contention when he missed a few shots.
I played better and better in the decider as the set progressed to finish on a high note. Agassi is one of the greatest players in history, and I would love to face him before he retires," Rafael Nadal said.