'Rafael Nadal at his prime was not my rival, and I'm happy about that,' says legend



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'Rafael Nadal at his prime was not my rival, and I'm happy about that,' says legend

In his final years on the Tour, Andre Agassi shared the court with the upcoming star Rafael Nadal twice. The young Spaniard defeated the American in Canada 2005 and Wimbledon 2006, winning five out of six sets and showing his skills against the eight-time Major champion.

Agassi said he felt relieved not to face Nadal in his prime years, praising the Spaniard and everything he has achieved in the previous 16 years. Nadal was a teenager on a mission in 2005, winning 11 ATP titles for one of the most celebrated seasons for those yet to turn 20.

Making the Roland Garros debut, Rafa claimed the maiden Major title after beating Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta, writing history books as the last teenager with a trophy at the highest level. Nadal saved even better tennis for the Masters 1000 series that year, reaching the Miami final and standing two points away from victory over Roger Federer before falling in five sets.

Rafa conquered the first Masters 1000 event a couple of weeks later in Monte Carlo, backed by another in Rome in May following an epic victory over Guillermo Coria. After Wimbledon, Rafa won two titles on clay and became world no.

2 ahead of Montreal, where he was the top seed in the absence of Roger Federer. Playing on a high level, Rafa got broken only once against Carlos Moya, Ricardo Mello, Sebastien Grosjean and Paul-Henri Mathieu to advance into already his fourth Masters 1000 final of the season.

Andre Agassi praised Rafael Nadal, who beat him in both encounters.

In the title match, the youth toppled the experience, as Nadal ousted Agassi 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in an hour and 58 minutes to lift the third Masters 1000 trophy within four months and become the first teenager with nine ATP titles in a single season since Mats Wilander in 1983!

Nadal got broken only once in set number two before starting all over in the decider to beat the crowd's favorite with three breaks of serve. They had a similar number of winners, while Agassi made too many unforced errors, unable to match the rival's baseline pace.

Rafa had a slight edge in the more extended exchanges against one of the greatest baseliners ever, scoring ten points more in the shortest range up to four strokes to forge the victory and claim his first hard-court ATP title.

In his last Wimbledon match in 2006, a former champion Agassi faced Nadal in the third round and suffered a 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 loss in two hours and 14 minutes. The veteran won only 15 points on the return, creating no break chances and staying in touch only in the opener before Rafa shifted into a higher gear to seal the deal in straight sets and move into the last 16.