'Rafael Nadal is going to be there from...', says former ATP ace

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'Rafael Nadal is going to be there from...', says former ATP ace

Since his first professional match, Rafael Nadal was among the youngsters to beat. Rafa made a lot of progress up the ATP ranking list in 2002 and 2003, breaking into the top-50 and going for more in 2004. For the first time in his career, Nadal failed to progress up the ATP ranking list despite winning his first ATP title in Sopot in August.

Battling injuries and lack of form in the latter part of the season, Rafa still achieved a big goal at the end of 2004 and became a Davis Cup champion with Spain. With momentum heading into 2005, the teenager was eager to show off his best tennis and challenge the top opponents.

The young Spaniard moved into the second week in Melbourne, losing to Lleyton Hewitt in five sets. Rafa made a long trip to the other part of the world and won titles in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco to be on the verge of the top-30 before Miami.

Nadal became the second-youngest finalist at a Masters 1000 in Florida, blowing a huge lead against Roger Federer and losing in five sets despite coming within two points of beating the world number 1 in straight sets for the second year in a row.

Expecting more of the same in Monte Carlo, Nadal knocked out Gael Monfils in the first match and played even better against Belgium's Xavier Malisse in the second. Rafa scored a 6-0 and 6-3 victory in one hour and two minutes to advance to the round of 16.

Mastering serve and return, Nadal dropped nine points in his games and broke four in as many opportunities to seal the match in no time. After the match, Rafa recalled his first appearance in the Principality, in 2003, at the age of 16.

He qualified for the main draw and defeated Karol Kucera and reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa in straight sets to advance to the round of 16 in his Masters 1000 debut.

Wilander talks about Nadal

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander pays tribute to Rafael Nadal: "Having won there for the second time for someone like him, now he has won all of the Majors twice or more, that's massive.

That's where he separates himself from the great Roger Federer, who only won one French Open. So Rafa now knows how to win in all the different venues," said Wilander on Eurosport. "Rafael Nadal is going to be there from the first point of the year at the Australian Open, I am 100 percent sure because of the sun, because of the conditions, because having won there is huge," told Wilander.

Rafael Nadal