The 17-year-old Rafael Nadal was one of the players to watch at the beginning of 2004, continuing where he left in the previous season and reaching the first ATP final in Auckland. Rafa also claimed two wins at the Australian Open, followed by a notable Davis Cup debut with the decisive victory over Radek Stepanek on an indoor carpet court.
In Miami, the youngster took down world no. 1 Roger Federer for the best possible boost ahead of the spring clay swing that he had to skip after an ankle injury in Estoril, returning three months later in July and winning the first ATP crown in Sopot.
Nadal couldn't play against the Netherlands in the Davis Cup but was back for the semi-final encounter against France, defeating Arnaud Clement in straight sets and getting a chance to play against the USA in Seville in the final in December.
In front of the crowd of 25,000, the young gun stepped on the court instead of Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second rubber and became the youngest player with a live rubber victory in the Davis Cup final, ousting world no. 2 Andy Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in three hours and 38 minutes for a notable victory and the second point for his country.
Bob and Mike Bryan kept the USA in contention following their doubles victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo before Carlos Moya beat Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 to seal the deal for Spain and deliver the second Davis Cup trophy in four years.
After the victory, Nadal was thrilled with the way he and his teammates performed, calling it the most significant title of his career and praising his colleagues who all gave their best in front of the partisan crowd in Seville.
"I feel thrilled with the victory; it was a historical one. Carlos Moya didn't have to ask me how to beat Andy Roddick; he already played against him three times and watched my match as well. Carlos is a grand champion and he beat him by himself.
It was my first Davis Cup season and I'm happy to go all the way and win the title; I feel lucky to be a part of this beautiful team. We have had tough moments during the season and managed to overcome them. I like to play this kind of events and I have enjoyed every minute of it; for me, this is the most significant trophy of my career so far."
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