In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I made a great start and played on a high level'

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In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I made a great start and played on a high level'

The upcoming star Rafael Nadal couldn't make progress through the ATP ranking list in 2004, winning his first ATP title in Sopot but missing a couple of months due to an injury and not being able to find the form again by the end of the year.

In Miami, the 17-year-old defeated world no. 1 Roger Federer before experiencing that injury in Estoril, returning only in July and lifting that trophy in Sopot a couple of weeks later. By the rest of the season, Rafa scored only a couple of victories and the most important ones came in the Davis Cup against Arnaud Clement in the semis and world no.

2 Andy Roddick in the final in front of the home fans in Seville, helping Spain to win the second title in four years. A teenager opened the 2005 campaign in Doha, losing to Ivan Ljubicic in three sets before being forced to retire in Auckland due to breathing problems.

Heading to the Australian Open with no rhythm, Nadal shined in the first round to topple Julien Benneteau 6-0, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 28 minutes, controlling the pace from start to finish and making the best possible start of the first Major of the season, not wasting too much energy.

Rafa got broken twice and had the upper hand on the return all the time, delivering eight breaks from ten opportunities and marching into the second round where he would face Mikhail Youzhny. "I made a great start, playing on a high level throughout the match.

The second set probably wasn't perfect but it's normal for the first encounter in the tournament. I hope I can keep this level in the upcoming clashes. I wasn't injured in Auckland; I had breathing problems and it's all good now.

My next rival is Mikhail Youzhny; I lost to him in Dubai last year and beat him in Doha at the beginning of the season. It will be a tough one as he plays well; still, I will have my chances if I bring my best tennis."