Kei Nishikori had no doubts when asked to pick his favorite Masters 1000 match. The Japanese mentioned an epic Rome 2005 final between Rafael Nadal and Guillermo Coria, saying he remembers it well and watches it again when he has time.
Rafael Nadal was just 18 and a half when the 2005 season started and was the only player who could deal with Roger Federer in the first four months. The young Spaniard lifted four titles on clay and lost an epic Miami final to Roger in five sets despite being on the verge of victory.
Rafa won the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo in April, followed by a triumph in Barcelona. Nadal took seven days off and traveled to Rome as the newly-established top-10 player! The young Spaniard defeated five rivals at Foro Italico to set up the final meeting against Guillermo Coria on May 8.
Nadal produced an epic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 triumph in five hours and 14 minutes, in what had been the longest ATP final in the Open era at that moment! It's hard to describe the level of tennis these two produced in this thriller, pushing each other to the limits and forcing that extra shot in the rally from the other side of the net in a ruthless baseline battle.
The Centre Court at Foro Italico had never witnessed a contest like this before (it would again just 12 months later), with two of the finest clay courters giving their best for every point and keeping the ball on the forehand wing as much as possible.
We saw four aces in the entire match, and the winner had to emerge in the ultimate baseline clash, with almost 100 points reaching the ten-shot mark! Coria had to find a different approach to overpower a teenager despite his fantastic defense skills.
The Argentine tried to impose his shots and break Nadal's rhythm with drop shots, net rushings and more risky shots.
Nishikori picked Nadal vs. Coria 2005 Rome final as the Masters 1000 best.
Guillermo was more successful in the shortest points.
However, Nadal would gain the more extended rallies to emerge as a winner and grab his second Masters 1000 title within a couple of weeks. There were 37 break chances in total, with nine breaks of serve on each side. Coria was closer to 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 won a tie break 8-6 to celebrate his career's most significant title and gain a massive boost ahead of the upcoming Roland Garros. "I did not see it live, but the most excellent Masters 1000 match, in my opinion, was the 2005 Rome five-setter final between Rafael Nadal and Guillermo Coria. I remember it, and I still watch it sometimes. That was a great match," Kei Nishikori said.