Ranked where he was at the beginning of the previous season as well due to injuries, an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal kicked off the 2005 campaign as a new Davis Cup champion, gathering boost for what would become a notable season that would send him towards the very top.
A teenager started the year in Doha, losing to Ivan Ljubicic in three sets before retiring in Auckland due to breathing problems, losing points as he played in the final there a year ago. Heading to the Australian Open with no rhythm, Nadal played on a high level 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.
In the second match, the Spaniard had to work much harder, ousting Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 after almost three hours and 40 minutes. They both had 14 break opportunities and it was the youngster who played better in the decisive moments, suffering six breaks of serve and producing nine on the other hand to cross the finish line first and enter the last 32.
Losing ground a little bit in sets two and three, Nadal stayed focused in the fourth to bring it home with a late break, having the upper hand in the second part of the decider to cross the finish line and advance into the third round.
"I felt very well in sets four and five, having no physical problems and only feeling a little bit tired in the end. Mikhail didn't have anything left in the tank in the last couple of games and I brought the victory home.
Last year, I played against Lleyton Hewitt on the Centre court and it was an excellent match for me. Today, I was surprised to play on Rod Laver Arena and would love to meet Lleyton Hewitt again in the fourth round there. The next clash against Bobby Reynolds will not be easy; he defeated Pavel and Almagro.
I don't know much about him, never saw him play. If I win that one, the tournament will become successful for me and will have the opportunity to play against Lleyton again. I had my chances against him last year, despite losing in straight sets.
I like the court; it's not very fast but also not too slow. Also, the balls have a good bounce. I'm serving better this year but I'm used to the fact there are no aces in my game and that I have to use a lot of energy to score wins."