As we all know, Rafael Nadal made his Roland Garros debut in 2005 and claimed the title a couple of days after turning 19. Nadal claimed the first ATP title in Sopot in August 2004 at 18 and did enough to finish the season where he started it.
For the first time, Rafa could not make an impact on the ATP ranking list. The main reason for that is that he had to skip three months between April and July due to an ankle injury suffered in Estoril, skipping Roland Garros and Wimbledon and missing a chance for a debut in Paris for the second straight year.
In 2003, the Spaniard gained 150 places on the ATP ranking list, earning his first Masters 1000 and Major triumphs and delivering two Challenger titles from six finals to find himself in the top-50. Still, the youngster had to miss Roland Garros due to an elbow injury, returning at Wimbledon and becoming one of the youngest players in the third round in the event's history.
Rafa had a solid run at the Australian Open and the US Open in 2004, hoping for more of the same in the next season and dreaming about making a debut in Paris, ready to challenge the rivals on the beloved surface. Four and a half months earlier, Nadal had reached the fourth round at the Australian Open after beating Julien Benneteau, Mikhail Youzhny and Bobby Reynolds.
The youngster gave his 120% against Lleyton Hewitt, who ousted him in Melbourne for the second straight year. The Aussie prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 after three hours and 53 minutes, staying focused in the fourth set and dominating the decider to remain on the title course.
Rafael Nadal was preparing for his Roland Garros debut earlier in 2005.
Hewitt won just two points more than Nadal, who had a massive advantage in sets two and three, dominating serve and return and just missing a chance to seal the deal and oust world no.
3. Rafa grabbed five breaks, and Lleyton responded with six return games, delivering his best tennis in the fourth set tie break where he had no room for errors and using that momentum to race through a decider and leave a teenager on the losing side.
After the encounter, Nadal said he played on a high level despite the loss, hoping to crack the top-20 or top-15 in the rest of the season and to finally make a debut at Roland Garros. "My mission is to finally play at the French Open and crack the top-20 or top-15 this season," Rafael Nadal said.