For many, an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal was among the title favorites in Monte Carlo 2005, reaching the final in the previous Masters 1000 event and hoping for another strong run on his beloved clay. Still, the youngster was ready to go match by match and improve his game, putting other players ahead of him and thinking only about the next opponent.
The Spaniard had great results in the opening three months of 2005, winning three matches at the Australian Open and conquering two titles on clay in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco to find himself on the verge of the top-30.
Skipping Indian Wells, Rafa delivered his best tennis in Miami, standing two points away from beating Roger Federer in straight sets in the final before the Swiss bounced back to leave the youngster empty-handed.
After the quarter-final loss in Vanelcia, Rafa was eager to prove his clay-court magic in Monte Carlo where he made a debut at 16 two years ago.
In the first round, the Spaniard toppled his coeval Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 24 minutes, getting broken twice and having the upper hand on the return to grab five breaks and seal the deal in under an hour and a half.
Rafa was the more successful player in the longer exchanges, forcing Monfils to run a lot and get tired in set number two. "I'm not thinking about facing Roger Federer. I was two points away from beating him in Miami but I wasn't able to bring it home.
I'm not thinking about future rivals but how to improve my game and seek more wins. I don't feel there is a big gap between my performance on hard and clay, I almost defeated Lleyton Hewitt in Melbourne and played well in Miami.
Still, I feel more relaxed on clay and many more things can happen during the encounter." After the win, Rafael Nadal said he doesn't think about facing Roger Federer again, focusing on improvements in his game and the next rival.