In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I will try to play at Roland Garros for the first time'

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In Rafael Nadal's words: 'I will try to play at Roland Garros for the first time'

Unlike his coevals, Rafael Nadal earned a vast experience before turning 19, battling in the biggest tennis arenas and against the rivals from the very top. Nadal made his first significant steps in Monte Carlo and Hamburg in 2003, still at 16, reaching the third round at both Masters 1000 events and seeking a deep run at Roland Garros.

Struggling with an injury, Rafa had to skip the clay Major, postponing his Paris debut and hoping for a better fortune a year later. In 2004, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in Miami and cracked the top-50, preparing for another notable campaign on clay but missing almost the entire spring action after an injury he suffered in Estoril, staying away from Roland Garros for the second straight season.

Everything was set for Nadal's first appearance on the clay Major in 2005, making strong progress since the beginning of the year and marching towards the place in the top-30.

Rafa reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, backing up that result with two ATP titles on clay in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco to add more points to his tally.

In Miami, the Spaniard became the second-youngest Masters 1000 finalist, barely missing a chance to beat Roger Federer in the title match and heading to Monte Carlo as one of the favorites.

Rafa made a rock-solid start in the Principality, beating Gael Monfils and Xavier Malisse in under two and a half hours to secure the place in the last 16 and stay on the title course. Malisse could remain on the court for only 62 minutes, suffering a bagel in the first set and never looking like a serious rival after taking only nine points on the return.

"I will try to play at Roland Garros for the first time. Before that, I plan to compete in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg and will know more about my chances at Roland Garros after that. I think it's a good schedule, with a couple of weeks off and a possibility to withdraw from some if I play too many matches."

Asked about Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal said he couldn't wait to play in Paris for the first time, having packed schedule before Roland Garros but with two weeks off.