The Birth of a Champion: Rafael Nadal's Iconic Debut at Roland Garros

17-year-old Rafael Nadal made his Roland Garros debut on May 23, 2005

by Jovica Ilic
The Birth of a Champion: Rafael Nadal's Iconic Debut at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal is missing his beloved Roland Garros for the first time in 18 years, failing to recover from an ongoing injury and experiencing his worst setback in a career! Nadal is a 14-time Roland Garros champion, losing only three matches from 18 trips to Paris and dominating like no other player at a single Major before.

Rafa's Roland Garros journey started on this day in 2005, with an 18-year-old playing his first match in Paris against Lars Burgsmuller. It was Nadal's first encounter as a top-5 player, and he made it memorable. The young Spaniard beat the German 6-1, 7-6, 6-1 in an hour and 45 minutes in rainy conditions.

Rafa was among the favorites after winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. A teenager played well in his first match, dropping 16 points in 14 service games and never facing a break point. The pressure was on Burgsmuller, and he dealt with it only in the second set.

Rafael Nadal scored his first Roland Garros victory over Lars Burgsmuller in 2005.

World no. 96 could not match the rival's pace behind the initial shot. Lars stayed in touch in set number two but got broken four times in sets one and three to propel the youngster over the finish line.

Rafa completed his first Roland Garros game with a forehand crosscourt winner and earned a break in game four to forge the advantage. Nadal cemented it with an ace down the T line in the next one for 4-1, settling into a fine rhythm.

Burgsmuller suffered another break in game six and allowed Nadal to clinch the opener with a service winner a few minutes later after 31 minutes. The German found his shots in set number two, playing aggressive tennis and keeping his service games safe until the tie break.

The Spaniard stayed calm and claimed it 7-4 to extend his lead and gather an even more significant boost ahead of set number three. Rafa forced Lars' error in the second game thanks to a deep return. The Spaniard landed a backhand down the line winner to move 3-0 up and closer to the finish line.

The German sprayed another backhand error in the fourth game to give serve away, drawing further away from the positive score. Rafa served for the victory at 5-1, eager to finish the job before a possible rain delay. Nadal fired three winners in the seventh game to emerge at the top, introducing himself to the Parisian crowd and starting a journey toward his first Roland Garros crown.

Rafael Nadal Roland Garros