Rafael Nadal had a chance to play his first ATP match at home in Mallorca in 2002 at 15, passing the first round and becoming one of the players to watch in the future. In the following season, the Spaniard entered the top-50 after a potent mixture of deep runs at Challengers and first notable results on the ATP Tour, reaching the third round in Monte Carlo and Hamburg on his beloved clay and also at Wimbledon.
Nadal couldn't play at Roland Garros 2003 due to an injury, with the same scenario repeating a year later when he had to skip all the action between April and July. Eager to show his full potential, Rafa bounced back even stronger in 2005, advancing into the first Masters 1000 final in Miami and missing a chance to beat world no.
1 Roger Federer in straight sets. Losing in five sets, Nadal left Miami behind him quickly and reached another Masters 1000 title match a couple of weeks later in Monte Carlo, facing the defending champion Guillermo Coria in the battle for the trophy.
After three hours and nine minutes, Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to become the second-youngest Masters 1000 champion after Michael Chang at 18 years and ten months.
The youngster played on a high level in sets one and two, dictating the rallies with his forehand and crumbling Coria on the return to forge a massive advantage.
Coria bounced back in set number three to deliver a bagel, erasing a 4-1 deficit in the fourth but propelling Nadal over the top after a late break for the Spaniard. A teenager repelled 11 out of 16 break chances to limit the damage in his games, earning seven breaks from 20 opportunities and keeping his focus in the closing stages to lift the trophy and write history.
Thrilled about the win, Rafa said that he would always remember his first notable title, although he still had to work hard on improvements to make his game even better. "I'm not the favorite at Roland Garros. I never played in Paris and I only think about my next tournaments in Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg.
I'm playing well now but it's not sure I will keep that momentum until Roland Garros. If I maintain this level, I will have a chance. I will have a week off after Barcelona and will use that to recover. After that, I'm entering two important Masters events, followed by another week off ahead of Roland Garros.
Playing best-of-five finals at Masters is excellent preparation for Grand Slams. At the best-of-three events, it would be better to compete in the best-of-three finals, but that's the rule." Also, Rafael Nadal said he is not the favorite at Roland Garros, never playing in Paris and focusing on the upcoming events in Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg first.