Unlike most of his coevals, Rafael Nadal earned a vast experience before turning 19, battling in the biggest tennis arenas and against the top-tier rivals. Nadal made his first significant steps in Monte Carlo and Hamburg in 2003 at 16, reaching the third round at both Masters 1000 events and seeking a deep run at Roland Garros.
Struggling with an injury, Rafa had to skip the clay Major, postponing his Paris debut and hoping for a better fortune a year later. In 2004, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in Miami and cracked the top-50. The Spaniard was preparing for another notable campaign on clay but missed almost the entire spring action after an injury he suffered in Estoril, staying away from Roland Garros for the second straight season.
Everything was set for Nadal's first appearance on the clay Major in 2005 after strong progress and a place in the top-30. Rafa reached the Australian Open fourth round, backed by two ATP titles on clay in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco.
In Miami, the Spaniard became the second-youngest Masters 1000 finalist after Michael Chang. Rafa barely missed a chance to beat Roger Federer in the title match and headed to Monte Carlo as one of the favorites. Rafa made a rock-solid start in the Principality, ousting Gael Monfils and Xavier Malisse in under two and a half hours to secure a place in the last 16 and stay on the title course.
Rafael Nadal was ready to play at Roland Garros for the first time in 2005.
Malisse remained on the court for only 62 minutes, suffering a bagel in the first set and never looking like a serious rival after taking only nine return points.
Asked about Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal said he could not wait to play in Paris for the first time, having a packed schedule and two weeks off before the most important event. "I will try to play at Roland Garros for the first time.
Before that, I plan to compete in Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg. I will know more about my chances at Roland Garros after that. I think it's a good schedule, with a couple of weeks off and a possibility to withdraw from some if I play too many matches," Rafael Nadal said.