Rafael Nadal skipped Wimbledon for the first time in five seasons due to a foot injury experienced at Roland Garros. Nadal played well at the All England Club in the last couple of years, but he is still to repeat the results from ten or 15 years ago when he competed in five consecutive title matches.
Rafa made the Wimbledon debut in 2003, just after turning 17 and 12 months after reaching the junior semis. The Spaniard advanced into the third round as one of the youngest players in the Open era alongside Boris Becker and Mats Wilander, hoping for more of the same in the years to come.
A teenager had to skip Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2004 due to an ankle injury, bouncing back stronger in 2005 as the top-10 player following titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. In his first appearance in Paris, Rafa secured the first Major title a couple of days after the 19th birthday.
He became the last teenager with a Major crown and set eyes towards Wimbledon. Alexander Waske took down the upcoming star in the first round in Halle, and Rafa looked better in London, beating Vincent Spadea 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 in an hour and 31 minutes in the Wimbledon first round.
Rafael Nadal lost to Gilles Muller in the Wimbledon 2005 second round.
Nadal dropped 16 points in 12 service games and repelled the only break chance to mount the pressure on the other side of the net. Spadea could not match those numbers and gave away almost half of the points behind the initial shot to suffer six breaks from 12 opportunities given to Rafa.
In the second round, the Spaniard failed to perform against a giant server Gilles Muller and suffered a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 28 minutes. World no. 69 fended off 12 out of 13 break chances to leave Nadal with almost no pace on the return and clinched one break in each set he won to move over the top and advance into the last 32.
The young gun knew what he had to improve to play competitive tennis on grass and chase titles, raising his game to a higher level in 2006 to reach the first Wimbledon final. "Gilles Muller played well today. I had my chances in the first and third sets but could not seize them.
Still, he was better than me, and that's why he won. I said the other day it would be difficult to pass a big server, and that happened today. I have to improve some elements in my game to conquer Wimbledon, and I'm working on that.
My serve and volley should work better, and I also need more confidence. I'm tired now after playing many matches in the previous month, with only a couple of days off," Rafael Nadal said.