Competing in his third straight Masters 1000 final, an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal prevailed over Guillermo Coria 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 in five hours and 14 minutes in an epic Rome 2005 encounter. It was the longest ATP final in the Open era at that point and one of the most remarkable triumphs in the career of the 20-time Major champion after refusing to give up.
The Centre Court at Foro Italico had never witnessed a contest like this before, with two of the finest clay-courters giving their best in every point, covering the court fluently and keeping the ball on the forehand wing as much as possible.
The entire clash saw four aces, and the winner had to emerge from the ultimate baseline clash, with almost 100 points reaching the ten-shot mark! Despite his exceptional defense skills, Coria knew he had to find a different approach to overpower a dangerous teenager.
The Argentine tried to impose his shots and break Nadal's rhythm with drop shots, net rushings and more risky strokes. Guillermo was more successful in the shortest points, but Nadal gained the advantage in the more dramatic rallies to emerge as a winner and grab his second Masters 1000 title in a row after Monte Carlo.
There were 37 break chances in total, with nine breaks on each side and a massive opportunity for Guillermo to cross the finish line in the decider, standing a point away from a 4-0 lead that would have broken Nadal's resistance.
Nonetheless, Rafa bounced back and claimed the tie break 8-6 to celebrate the biggest title in a career and gain a massive boost for Roland Garros. Coria drew first blood in game five when Nadal missed a backhand and cemented the lead with a backhand drive-volley winner in the next one.
Nadal fended off a break chance in game seven to avoid a double break and broke back in the next one with a rare backhand winner to level the score at 4-4 and gain momentum. His forehand started to work better, and he held in game nine with a winner before firing another on the return a few minutes later to steal the set 6-4 after rattling off Coria's four games!
Guillermo grabbed a break with a forehand drop shot winner in the second set's third game and opened a 3-1 advantage after a solid hold a few moments later. After a forehand winner, Rafa erased the deficit with a break in game six before losing his serve and the set 6-3.
Nadal controlled the pace at the beginning of the third set and opened a 4-0 gap before getting broken while serving for the set at 5-2. The ninth game was the longest of the match, and Rafa seized another break, converting the eighth chance to seal it 6-3 and move closer to the finish line.
The Spaniard struggled with blisters on his left hand, and Guillermo broke with a forehand winner in the fourth set's game five to open his second lead and serve to send the encounter into a deciding set at 5-4.
Rafael Nadal defeated Guillermo Coria after over five hours in Rome 2005.
Nadal created a break chance but was denied after a backhand forced error, allowing Coria to take the set with a service winner after over an hour.
The best was yet to come in the next hour and a half, though, with the final set turning out to be one of the most memorable ones on the Tour in the last 25 years. Guillermo was the better player on the court and raced into a 3-0 lead when Rafa netted an easy forehand, with two game points for what could have been a crucial 4-0 advantage.
The warrior inside Nadal came alive again, fending them off to pull one break back with a drop shot winner. Coria netted a forehand in game six, and his early lead was done and dusted after falling 4-3 behind. The pivotal moment came in game nine when Nadal saved a break chance with a backhand slice winner that landed on the line, hitting a forehand winner to bring another game home and keep the pressure on his rival.
Guillermo faced a match point in game 12 and saved it with a great forehand attack to set up a tie break after a magnificent lob winner when the clock showed a five-hour mark! The Spaniard won five out of six points to create a 5-1 gap and earned two more match points after the Argentine's huge forehand miss in the tenth point.
To make things even more dramatic, Coria staved off both to level the score at 6-6. However, Nadal was not to be denied, earning the fourth match point after a smash that Guillermo could only return into the net and moving over the finish line thanks to his opponent's volley error in the next point.
"I'm thrilled; it's my second Masters 1000 title, and I played one of the toughest encounters of my life. I do not know where I found the energy to come back from 3-0 down in the decider. The crowd was behind me, which gave me an extra boost that helped me make a comeback.
I was a bit nervous at 6-5 in the match tie break, hitting a double fault but staying focused to win the next two points," Rafael Nadal said.