Young Rafael Nadal after a strong start of the season: 'I feel confident'



by JOVICA ILIC

Young Rafael Nadal after a strong start of the season: 'I feel confident'

An 18-year-old Rafael Nadal claimed the Davis Cup title with Spain at the end of 2004 for a massive boost ahead of the new season. Rafa was eager to chase high ranking positions and notable titles in 2005, working hard on his game and proving his quality in the season's opening months.

After a tight Australian Open loss to Lleyton Hewitt, Nadal competed on his beloved clay in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The youngster claimed back-to-back titles in Costa Do Sauipe and Acapulco to find himself on the verge of the top-30 before the season's first Masters 1000 events.

Rafa withdrew from Indian Wells due to illness and returned to action in Miami. The Spaniard defeated Rainer Schuettler, Fernando Verdasco and Ivan Ljubicic to find himself in the first Masters 1000 quarter-final at 18.

Rafael Nadal reached the first Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami 2005 at 18.

Rafa proved to be too strong for world no.

27 Thomas Johansson, ousting the Swede 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 24 minutes for a place in the last four. Thus, Nadal became the second-youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist after Michael Chang 15 years earlier. Like against Ljubicic, Nadal had the upper hand behind the initial shot versus the Swede.

A teenager faced only one break point and earned four return games to control the scoreboard and set the clash against another Spaniard, David Ferrer. After the match, Nadal said he feels very comfortable on the court, serving well and doing everything right from the baseline, hoping for more of the same against David.

"I feel very comfortable at the moment. I used passing shots, topspin and high balls to impose my strokes. Of course, I like clay, but I'm playing well on hard, too, reaching the final in Auckland last year. I have been sick for a while and could not prepare for Miami in the way I wanted.

After Miami, I will play Valencia, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Hamburg and Roland Garros. If I stay injury-free, I will embrace the full clay-court swing. In my last match against David Ferrer in Stuttgart last year, I returned after an injury without too much energy left. Everything is different now, and anything can happen in the next round," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Thomas Johansson