An 18-year-old Rafael Nadal kicked off the 2005 season from just outside the top-50, missing to gain more ranking positions in the previous year due to injuries. The Spaniard set high goals for 2005, and he needed only a couple of months to establish himself as the world's second-best player behind Roger Federer.
In February, Rafa won back-to-back titles on clay in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco, skipped Indian Wells, and entered Miami. He lost a thrilling final to Roger Federer, being two sets to love up and two points away from the finish line.
With no time for rest, Rafa caught the first flight to Europe, heading to Valencia and returning to his beloved clay. The youngster was ready to give his best despite two challenging weeks in Florida and that grueling final against the world's best player.
Juan Carlos Ferrero and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez stood no chance against the mighty teenager in the opening two rounds. Still, Igor Andreev took down Rafa 7-5, 6-2 in an hour and 40 minutes in the quarter-final on April 8, halting the youngster's progress and giving him a few days off before the Monte Carlo Masters.
Rafael Nadal lost in Valencia 2005 before winning the next 81 matches on clay.
Rafa broke the Russian three times but had nothing left in the tank after the opener to suffer the 13th loss in the ATP clay matches. It was Nadal's last ATP loss on clay ahead of the unmatched streak he would embrace.
Rafa had won the following 81 encounters on the slowest surface to set the record that should stay for good! Nadal's streak started with the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, and he would remain undefeated on clay for two years until Roger Federer ousted him in the 2007 Hamburg final.
Nadal claimed 13 straight ATP titles on clay during that period, including three Roland Garros and six Masters 1000 crowns, to establish himself as one of the greatest clay-courters ever at 20! Guillermo Coria, Roger Federer and a few other players were there to challenge Rafa on clay in those years.
Still, none of them could make the last push and defeat the Spaniard in his kingdom. Finally, Federer ended Nadal's streak in the 2007 Hamburg final after a dominant display in sets two and three. Nadal has won 464 of 507 ATP matches on clay in his glorious career, claiming 62 ATP titles on the beloved surface, 13 at Roland Garros.