Rafael Nadal, 19, on chasing Roger Federer in the rankings: 'It's incredible'



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Rafael Nadal, 19, on chasing Roger Federer in the rankings: 'It's incredible'

Rafael Nadal made his professional debut in 2001, barely playing junior tournaments and scoring the first ATP win at home in Mallorca in April 2002. Nadal cracked the top-50 in 2003 and stayed there for a couple of seasons despite setbacks with injuries.

Rafa won the first ATP title in August 2004 and helped Spain win the Davis Cup crown at the end of the season. The young Spaniard set eyes on even higher goals in 2005, lifting two ATP trophies on clay in February and reaching the first Masters 1000 final in Miami, standing two points away from a straight-sets victory against Roger Federer.

The Swiss stole the triumph in five sets, but the best was yet to come for an 18-year-old in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome ahead of Roland Garros. Carried by a massive momentum, a teenager made a perfect Parisian debut despite feeling the pressure, beating Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta to lift the first Major trophy, become world no.

3 and gather momentum ahead of the second part of the year. The results were not that good on grass, and Nadal was back at his best in Bastad and Stuttgart, adding more trophies to his tally and traveling to Montreal as the top seed after Roger Federer's withdrawal.

Rafa defeated his friend and compatriot Carlos Moya 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and 38 minutes in the first round. The younger Spaniard played against only one break chance, never giving serve away and wasting 13 out of 15 break opportunities to stay on the court for much longer than he wanted.

Moya claimed all seven points in the second set tie break, and Nadal had to start all over in the decider, taking it home with a single break.

Rafael Nadal spoke about being world no. 2 at Canada Masters 2005.

It was Rafa's first ATP tournament played as world no.

2, and the youngster could not even imagine that six months or a year earlier, especially after missing a couple of months in 2004 due to an injury. With a Major and two Masters 1000 titles under his belt (Rafa would win Montreal too), the young gun became the second-strongest link on the Tour behind Roger Federer, leaving all other opponents behind him.

"Of course, I can still improve my game; I'm young. You have to be humble and work on your game every day. It will not be easy to win the tournament; this is the Masters 1000 event, and the players from the top-50 are here.

I like the competition and enjoy the game. I'm world no. 2 behind Roger Federer, and I could not think about that six months or a year ago. Last year, I was injured for three months, and it wasn't easy to watch my ranking going down," Rafael Nadal said.