Rafael Nadal gained 150 positions on the ATP list in 2003, winning two Challenger titles from six finals and scoring some notable victories at the Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level to become the youngster to watch. In the following season, Rafa was ready to attack higher ranking positions, reaching the first ATP final in Auckland and toppling world no.
1 Roger Federer in Miami. Still, his progress was halted after an ankle injury in Estoril in April, staying away from the court until July and needing some time to regain the form despite the first ATP title he claimed in Sopot in August.
The youngster got the opportunity to play against France in the Davis Cup semi-final in Alicante in September, beating Arnaud Clement in straight sets and hoping to make the squad for the final in Seville versus the USA. Four years after the first, Spain conquered the second Davis Cup title in front of the partisan crowd of 25,000, with Nadal performing on a very high level to oust world no.
2 Andy Roddick in the second rubber. Carlos Moya sent Spain in front with a commanding triumph over Mardy Fish, with an 18-year-old Nadal stepping on the court next instead of Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was dealing with an injury.
In his fourth Davis Cup singles rubber that year, Nadal prevailed over Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in just under three hours and 40 minutes, propelling his country 2-0 up after the first day and starting a massive celebration with his teammates.
Roddick gave his best to stay in touch with the young opponent, taking the opening set in the tie break and reaching another one at 1-1. Carried by the partisan crowd, Rafa claimed the second and fourth sets in style, prevailing in that third set tie break to secure the victory and move his country closer to the finish line.
Speaking about the match almost 16 years later while watching it on the ITF Youtube channel, Roddick said it is evidence that he won a set against Nadal on clay and gave confidence to the 11-year-old to chase 19 Major crowns.
"Proof that I won a set against Rafael Nadal on clay.
He was 11 years old at the time, and there wasn't much else to celebrate over the next three sets, but those seem like unimportant details from where I sit.
If anything, I just gave him the confidence to win 19 Majors," Andy Roddick said. "I think I claimed victory because the crowd was there to support me; it was essential for me. I had some notable matches in every stage of my career and this is one of them, especially after that injury.
I played on a very high level; I deserved the triumph after working very hard on the practice court. It was a tough year for me and I'm thrilled with the way I performed today. Andy serves reached 230 km/h; I'm happy with the way I returned them, particularly in the most critical moments in the tie breaks.
After the match, I didn't remember Roddick or McEnroe or anything; all I wanted was to celebrate with my teammates. I learned today that I have to calm down a bit during the match and get less excited. Davis Cup is a completely different competition from any other and it helped me to believe that I'm a good player.
Also, I have left injuries behind me, bringing the confidence back ahead of the new season. About the doubles, the decision is not on me; we shall talk with the captain later," Rafael Nadal said.