After considerable progress in 2003, Rafael Nadal was ready for an even stronger charge in the following season, reaching the first ATP final in Auckland and advancing into the third round of the Australian Open. In Miami, an 18-year-old stunned world no.
1 Roger Federer in straight sets, marching towards the top-30 before a left ankle injury against Richard Gasquet in Estoril halted his progress, forcing him to miss both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, with the Spaniard returning only in July in Bastad.
Following the quarter-final run in Sweden and Stuttgart, Rafa lost early in Canada and Cincinnati and went back to Europe to enter the small ATP 250 event in Sopot. The youngster went all the way against the rivals from outside the top-80 to lift the first ATP crown as the youngest player since 1998, taking well-deserved rest and making a return at the US Open.
In the first round, Rafa toppled the Swiss Ivo Heuberger in five sets, struggling in sets three and four before claiming the victory in the decider to set the clash against world no. 2 and the defending champion Andy Roddick.
One of the title favorites proved to be too strong for the Spaniard, with Roddick scoring a dominant 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 36 minutes, dominating in the opener and doing enough in sets two and three to seal the deal in straight sets.
Despite serving at 82%, Nadal couldn't do anything with his initial shot, suffering seven breaks and dealing with his elbow that prevented him from showing his usual tennis on the Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I didn't feel like I could serve my best today, a little bit of trouble with my arm, my elbow.
I understand that against someone like Roddick, it's kind of difficult without serving your best. I think I didn't play at my best today and you can't beat Andy Roddick without showing your A-game. After that bagel in the opening set, I wasn't that nervous in set number two as in the first.
I was 30-0 in the first game of the match before getting broken, which is never easy against Roddick. There's a difference between the rivals I had played in Sopot and Andy Roddick; there were good players but ranked outside the top-50.
Also, I won that event on clay. After that injury from April, I played on a high level only two or three times, like in Stuttgart and Bastad."