Rafael Nadal reveals the clash that marked his early career

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Rafael Nadal reveals the clash that marked his early career

The young Spaniard Rafael Nadal passed 150 rivals on the ATP list in 2003, winning two Challenger titles from six finals and scoring some notable victories at the Masters 1000 and Major level. Rafa was ready to attack higher ranking positions in the following season, reaching the first ATP final in Auckland in the opening week and toppling world no.

1 Roger Federer in Miami in straight sets. Still, his progress stopped after an ankle injury in Estoril, and he stayed away from the court until July and needed time to regain form despite the first ATP title in Sopot in August.

In September, the youngster was in the Spanish squad against France in the Davis Cup semi-final in Alicante, beating Arnaud Clement in straight sets and hoping for more in the final in Seville versus the USA. Four years after the first, Spain conquered the second Davis Cup title in front of the partisan crowd of 25,000, with Nadal performing on a very high level to oust world no.

2 Andy Roddick in the second rubber. Carlos Moya sent Spain in front with a commanding triumph over Mardy Fish before an 18-year-old Nadal stepped on the court instead of injured Juan Carlos Ferrero. In his fourth Davis Cup singles rubber that year, Nadal prevailed over Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in just under three hours and 40 minutes, propelling his country 2-0 up after the first day and starting a massive celebration with his teammates.

Roddick gave his best to stay in touch with the young opponent, taking the opening set in the tie break and reaching another one at 1-1. Carried by the partisan crowd, Rafa claimed it to open two sets to one advantage and sealed the deal with a strong performance in the fourth.

Rafael Nadal defeated world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the Davis Cup final at 18.

"The match against Roddick in the 2004 Davis Cup final is one of those that marked my career and the one I will never forget. People remember my performance for the freshness and how young I was, but the real architect of the victory was Carlos Moya, who brought us two points.

I think I claimed victory because the crowd was there to support me; it was essential. I had some notable matches in every stage of my career, and this is one of them, especially after that injury. I played on a very high level; I deserved the triumph after working very hard on the practice court.

It was a tough year for me, and I'm thrilled with how I performed today. Andy's serves go 230 km/h; I'm happy with how I returned them, particularly in the most critical moments in the tie breaks. After the match, I did not remember Roddick or McEnroe or anything; all I wanted was to celebrate with my teammates.

I learned today that I have to calm down a little bit during the match and get less excited. Davis Cup is a completely different competition from any other, which helped me believe that I'm a good player. Also, I have left injuries behind me, bringing the confidence back ahead of the new season," Rafael Nadal said.