Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I wish to face Andre Agassi before he retires'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I wish to face Andre Agassi before he retires'

Rafael Nadal was a player on the mission in the opening months of the 2005 season, winning two titles on clay and standing two points away from the Miami crown. Roger Federer toppled the youngster in that one, and Nadal needed no time to bounce back, conquering the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo following a hard-fought victory over Guillermo Coria in over three hours.

A week later, Rafa lifted the trophy in front of the home fans in Barcelona and took a well-deserved week off before debuting in Rome. Missing the event in the Italian capital in the previous two years due to injuries, Nadal was the favorite for the title, still before the 19th birthday.

Rafa reached the third straight Masters 1000 final with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over his compatriot David Ferrer in two and a half hours.

Rafael Nadal could face Andre Agassi in the final in Rome 2005.

Nadal suffered six breaks from seven chances offered to Ferrer, digging deep and securing seven return games from nine break points that carried him over the finish line.

David had more winners and errors, staying in touch with Rafa in the more extended rallies and losing ground slightly in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes. Nadal grabbed an early lead, and Ferrer bounced back with a break in game eight, gathering momentum and securing another at 5-4 to clinch the opener in style.

The second set saw back-to-back breaks in games three and four and again at 3-3. The rivals stayed close to each other before Rafa scored a crucial break in game nine and sealed the set with a hold at love to gain a boost ahead of the decider.

Nadal served for the victory at 5-4 but got broken, staying composed and taking eight of the last nine points to seal the deal before the tie break and secure a place in the title match against Andre Agassi or Guillermo Coria.

"I felt a bit tired, both mentally and physically. Still, I fought hard for every ball and earned the victory. I felt thrilled when that backhand landed in to offer me a match point. David was the better player in sets one and two, but I got back into contention after a few misses from his side.

I played better in the decider as the set progressed to finish on a high note. Agassi is one of the greatest players in history, and I would love to face him before he retires," Rafael Nadal said.