Unlike most of his contemporaries, Rafael Nadal gained vast experience before his 19th birthday, battling in the biggest tennis stadiums and against top-tier opponents. Nadal took his first significant steps in Monte-Carlo and Hamburg in 2003 at the age of 16, reaching the third round in both Masters 1000 events and looking for an outstanding run at Roland Garros.
Struggling with injury, Rafa had to skip the clay Major, postponing his debut in Paris and hoping for better fortune a year later. In 2004, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in Miami and cracked the top 50. The Spaniard was preparing for another remarkable campaign on clay, but he missed most of the spring action following an injury in Estoril, so he walked away from Roland Garros for the second consecutive season.
Everything was set for Nadal's first appearance at the clay court Major in 2005 after strong progress and a top 30 place. Rafa reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, 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 the opportunity to beat Roger Federer in the title match and headed to Monte Carlo as one of the favourites. Rafa got off to a rock-solid start in the Principality, ousting Gael Monfils and Xavier Malisse in less than two and a half hours to secure a place in the Round of 16 and stay on the title track.
Castle praises Rafa Nadal
In a recent interview with Tennis365, Andrew Castle joked that there should have been a camera on Novak Djokovic when Rafael Nadal won his 21st Major at the 2022 Australian Open. “The only camera we were missing down in Australia was one on Novak’s face on match point when Nadal made it to No.
21. After seeing that, I can imagine Novak’s motivation will be 100 percent moving forward," said Castle. Castle also showered praise on Nadal, highlighting that the Spaniard showed "real glamor" in the final against Daniil Medvedev.
The World No. 5 fought back from two sets down in the final against the Russian to win his first Australian Open title since 2009. “It was a great tournament down in Australia and there are new names emerging in the game, but Rafa showed up and reminded us what real glamor is with a five-hour final and a narrative you could never [have] written," said the 58-year-old.