Rafael Nadal finished the 2004 season with the Davis Cup trophy, celebrating with his teammates and setting his eyes on high goals in 2005. The young Spaniard was ready to chase notable titles, and he wished to finally enter Roland Garros after missing it in 2003 and 2004 due to injuries.
Nadal's first ATP title came in Sopot in August 2004, five months after beating world no. 1 Roger Federer in Miami. However, the young gun could not continue his climb through the ATP ranking list, experiencing an injury in April and missing three months, including painful withdrawals from Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Thus, the future king of clay had to skip a Major on his beloved surface for the second straight year, missing it in 2003 due to another setback. Nadal kicked off the 2005 season with two early losses, struggling a bit physically but raising his level at the Australian Open.
The Spaniard made a convincing start and earned victories over Julien Benneteau, Mikhail Youzhny and Bobby Reynolds. Nadal survived the Youzhny challenge and toppled Reynolds to set the fourth-round clash versus the home star Lleyton Hewitt.
It was their second Australian Open duel within two years, and Hewitt prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 in three hours and 53 minutes. Lleyton won two points more than Rafa, staying focused in the fourth set's closing stages and overpowering a teenager in the fifth to advance into the quarter-final.
The Aussie stole the opener with a late break, and the Spaniard raised his level in sets two and three.
Rafael Nadal was eager to debut at Roland Garros in 2005.
Rafa dominated on serve and return and looked good to seal the deal in four sets and earn a notable victory.
Hewitt regrouped in the fourth set, serving better and clinching it in the tie break to force a decider and gain a boost. Nadal ran out of steam in the final set and missed a chance to beat world no. 2 at Rod Laver Arena. Despite the loss, Rafa was pleased with his performance, hoping for more for the rest of the year.
An 18-year-old wished to crack the top-20 or top-15 and appear in the Roland Garros draw for the first time. "My mission is to finally play at the French Open and crack the top-20 or top-15 this season," Rafael Nadal said.
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