'Rafael Nadal will have options at Roland Garros', says expert
by SIMONE BRUGNOLI | VIEW 7096
After considerable progress in 2003, Rafael Nadal was ready for an even stronger charge the following season. The 17-year-old reached the first ATP final in Auckland early in the 2004 season and advanced to the third round of the Australian Open.
Rafa stunned world number 1 Roger Federer in straight sets in Miami and made a name for himself. The young Spaniard marched towards the top-30 before picking up a left ankle injury against Richard Gasquet in Estoril that halted his progress.
Nadal missed Roland Garros and Wimbledon and returned in July in Bastad. After quarterfinals in Sweden and Stuttgart, Rafa experienced early losses in Canada and Cincinnati and returned to Europe to participate in a small ATP 250 event in Sopot on clay.
The youngster went all the way against opponents from outside the top-80 to lift the first ATP crown. Nadal became the youngest ATP champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998, taking a well-earned break and returning at the US Open.
Rafa defeated the Swiss Ivo Heuberger in five sets in the first round in New York. The teenager struggled in sets three and four before claiming victory in the decider to set up the clash with world number 2 and defending champion Andy Roddick.
One of the favorites for the title proved too strong for the Spaniard, scoring a dominant 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory in one hour and 36 minutes. Despite serving at 82%, Nadal couldn't do anything with his serve. He dropped serve seven times, as his elbow prevented him from playing at his usual level at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After the match, Nadal praised his opponent and stated that he could not beat her without delivering his best game, which was not the case. Rafa admitted that he felt more relaxed after receiving a zero in the opening set, fighting better in sets two and three but unable to prolong the duel.
"I didn't feel like I could get the best out of it today; I had problems with my elbow."
Uncle Toni on Rafa's future
Rafael Nadal's retirement is not around the corner anytime soon, reckons the Spaniard's uncle Toni. "In his mind he is not retiring for now.
Another thing is what the doctors say or that he has more pain than he touches," he said, as pieced together from various sources. "The moment is still good and if he is fit, he will continue. In the end it's a complicated fight against a great champion like Djokovic.
To overcome Djokovic is difficult because Djokovic is fresher than him," he said. "He will have options at Roland Garros and after France. We'll see."