After losing that tight clash against Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open 2005, Rafael Nadal traveled to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico to compete on his beloved clay, winning back-to-back titles in Costa Do Sauipe and Acapulco to find himself on the verge of the top-30.
The young Spaniard skipped Indian Wells and returned in Miami, beating Rainer Schuettler and Fernando Verdasco to find himself in the last 16 for the second year in a row, stunning Roger Federer in the third round 12 months earlier at 17!
Rafa had to work hard against Ivan Ljubicic in the battle for the quarter-final, beating the Croat 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and 44 minutes, suffering only one break of serve and earning three breaks from 12 opportunities to find himself in the last eight.
Ljubicic fought well in the second set to take it in the tie break before Nadal bounced back in the decider to cross the finish line first and set the clash against Thomas Johannson. After the match, Nadal praised Ljubicic but also his serve, saying it worked much better than in the previous rounds.
Also, Nadal mentioned that notable victory over Federer, calling the Swiss the best player out there and carrying great memories from their first encounter. "I won the match because I played very well and stayed aggressive.
Not only that Ljubicic served well but he also performed on a high level from the baseline, putting a lot of pressure on me. I had to fight hard and return well; that was the critical element. The surface here in Key Biscayne suits my game; it's not too fast and I like it.
I love how my serve worked today; it was much better than in the previous rounds. I'm trying to improve all the strokes as I control the balls much better than before; I would also love to have a better backhand slice and I'm working on it.
You always have motivation but it's even bigger one when you face someone from the top. I rate the victory against Roger Federer as one of my best triumphs, as I consider him the best player; I have good memories of that encounter."