Born to rule the clay courts, Rafael Nadal had to skip Roland Garros in 2003 and 2004 due to injuries, not making a debut in Paris until 2005. The Spaniard had already proved his status as one of the best clay-courters in the world before the second Major of the season, scoring some notable Masters 1000 wins already in 2003 and lifting the first ATP trophy on the beloved surface a year later in Sopot.
Having to skip three months and his favorite tournaments due to a left ankle injury in 2004, Nadal bounced back at the end of the season when he ousted Andy Roddick at home in Seville, helping Spain to win the second Davis Cup crown and seeking more notable results in the year that followed.
Rafa reached the fourth round at the Australian Open 2005, losing to Lleyton Hewitt and heading to the other part of the world to compete on clay in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. The youngster lifted back-to-back titles in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco, having to skip Indian Wells due to sickness and making a return in Miami where he made the headlines a year ago after beating world no.
1 Roger Federer. Coming to Florida on the verge of the top-30, Rafa defeated Rainer Schuettler, Fernando Verdasco, Ivan Ljubicic, Thomas Johansson and David Ferrer to become the second-youngest Masters 1000 finalist after Michael Chang in 1990, setting another clash with Roger Federer and seeking the first notable crown of his young career.
After a memorable battle, Roger scored a 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 triumph in three hours and 43 minutes, producing a fantastic comeback after trailing 6-2, 7-6, 4-1! The Swiss was two points away from the loss in that third set, managing to bounce back and win the set despite being 5-3 down in the tie break.
With momentum on his side, Federer had the upper hand in sets four and five, serving well and mounting the pressure on Nadal who couldn't endure it after wasting such a massive opportunity to secure the victory in straight sets.
After the match, Nadal was asked about the upcoming Roland Garros, saying he can't wait to play in Paris for the first time. Still, the Spaniard was also focused on the Masters 1000 events on clay in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg, trying to achieve the best results in those and get ready for the second Major of the season.
"I never played the French Open before and would love to give my best in Paris. Still, I have three Masters 1000 tournaments on clay to play first. Those are very important for my ranking and I have to focus on them and perform the best I can."