Rafael Nadal recalls: 'Despite losing, I'm happy about my level against world no. 3'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'Despite losing, I'm happy about my level against world no. 3'
Rafael Nadal recalls: 'Despite losing, I'm happy about my level against world no. 3' (Provided by Tennis World USA)

Despite many setbacks, Rafael Nadal wrapped up the 2004 season in glory, defeating world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the Davis Cup final in Seville and becoming the youngest player with a live rubber triumph in the finals of the prominent team competition.

Starting the following season from just outside the top-50, Nadal lost in the quarter-final in Doha to Ivan Ljubicic and retired in the first match in Auckland, having slight breathing issues and hoping to play with no troubles at the season's first Major in Melbourne.

The youngster made a great start against Julien Benneteau before surviving a stern test from Mikhail Youzhny in five sets to enter the last 32. Bobby Reynolds could not do much against the world's most promising youngster, who lost only five games and sealed the deal in under 90 minutes to preserve energy for the long-awaited clash against Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round on Rod Laver Arena.

Rafael Nadal lost to Lleyton Hewitt in five sets at the 2005 Australian Open.

The Aussie defeated the Spaniard in 2004 after winning two tie breaks, and he worked even harder in this one, scoring a 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 triumph in three hours and 53 minutes.

Hewitt won just two points more than Nadal, who had a massive advantage in sets two and three, motivated to show his best tennis in the deepest run at Majors up to that point. In the end, Lleyton survived all the challenges in the fourth set to secure it in the tie break, leaving the youngster with nothing left in the tank in the decider.

Rafa grabbed five breaks, and Lleyton responded with six, delivering his best tennis in the tie break where he had no room for errors and using that momentum to race through a decider and leave a teenager empty-handed. Nadal praised the opponent and his performance, citing those chances in the fourth set and hoping for more exciting matches in the rest of the season.

"I do not think I run out of gas in the fourth set; that happened in the fifth as I had problems with cramps. I had my chances in the fourth, standing at 30-15 on the return a couple of times. I did not play badly in the crucial moments, and Lleyton played them better; that's why he won.

I was close to the finish line in the fourth, and once I missed that, there was no way for me to come back in the fifth, especially after Lleyton's good start. I could not do anything after that. His experience made the difference, as he played a lot of matches like this one before.

Still, I'm happy with how I performed, staying in touch for four sets and having my chances to win against world no. 3. If I maintain this level, I can achieve some big things this year. Lleyton and I are not that similar; I think I'm attacking more, while he has much better serve," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open Lleyton Hewitt