Rafael Nadal made an impressive Roland Garros debut in 2005, beating five rivals and facing world no. 1 Roger Federer in the semis on his 19th birthday. The Spaniard toppled the Swiss 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 47 minutes to become the fifth-youngest Major finalist in the Open era.
It was their third meeting and the first at Majors. Rafa beat Roger for the second time and prevented him from reaching the title clash at the only Major he was missing in his collection. Nadal won only 11 points more, serving at 73% and defending the second serve nicely to emerge at the top against the more experienced rival.
The youngster saved six out of 12 break points and grabbed nine breaks from 13 opportunities to seal the deal and set the Mariano Puerta clash. Rafa stayed in touch with Roger in the shortest range up to four strokes and toppled him in the more advanced ones, although there was not much to separate them.
Federer hit more winners and 60 unforced errors, which plagued his chances for a better result. A teenager earned a break at 15 in the first game and held after two deuces in the next one for an early advantage. The Spaniard held at love in the fourth game and scored another break that sent him 4-1 ahead following a forehand winner.
Federer seized the fourth break chance in the sixth game with a backhand winner to reduce the deficit. Still, his forehand let him down again in the next one to lose serve for the third time and fall 5-2 down. Nadal wasted two set points on his serve in the eighth game and allowed Federer to prolong the set.
However, the youngster closed the set with his fourth break in game nine for 6-3. The Swiss raised his level after a slight rain delay in the second set, playing better behind the initial shot and breaking the Spaniard at 1-1.
Roger seized the fourth break chance in the fifth game to forge a 4-1 advantage and held at love to move a game away from the set.
Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in four sets at 2005 Roland Garros.
Serving at 5-2, the Swiss lost serve but fixed that at his second attempt at 5-4 to lock the overall score.
After five commanding holds at the beginning of the third set, Nadal grabbed a break at 3-2 with a volley winner after taking four straight points. Roger broke back in the next one and held for 4-4 and more drama. Nadal stayed calm and delivered another break at 5-4 with a volley winner to open two sets to one gap and move closer to the finish line.
Making another push, Federer took 12 out of 15 points from the fourth set's second game to forge a 3-1 advantage, looking good to force a decider. Instead, he squandered two game points in the sixth game and allowed Nadal to pull the break back and level the score at 3-3.
The youngster grabbed another break in the eighth game and sealed the deal with a hold at 15 in the next one for five straight games and his first Major final. "I was bad at the start, good in the middle and bad at the end.
I'm disappointed, but I will not trash the locker room. My desire to win Roland Garros is still massive. I thought I had the keys to beat him, but I was not at my best," Roger Federer said.