Still a teenager, Rafael Nadal became one of the world's leading players in 2005. The Spaniard had an incredible run in the Masters 1000 series, lifting multiple trophies on both clay and hard and securing the first Major title at Roland Garros.
Following a strong campaign on clay that saw him winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros, Nadal suffered early exits in Halle and Wimbledon. The youngster was back on the winning way in Bastad and Stuttgart, earning more ATP titles on clay and becoming world no.
2 ahead of Montreal. With no Roger Federer in the draw, Nadal was the top seed and one of the players to watch. Rafa made a winning start with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory over a compatriot and friend Carlos Moya. The youngster had to work hard in that one, experiencing a more relaxed day at the office in the second round when he ousted Ricardo Mello 6-1, 6-2 in 66 minutes.
The Spaniard dropped 11 points in eight service games, facing no break chances and taking 56% of the return points to grab four breaks and march into the last 16. In the battle for the quarter-final, Nadal defeated Sebastien Grosjean 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 40 minutes, repelling all five break opportunities and stealing the opponent's serve once in each set to hit the last four.
His next rival was Paul-Henri Mathieu who played on a high level that week, giving his best against Rafa but ending up losing. A teenager prevailed 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 50 minutes, getting broken at 5-4 in the second set while serving for the win and recovering quickly to advance into the final.
Rafa said he would love to play against Andre Agassi for the trophy, calling the American one of the greatest players of all time.
"I was a bit nervous at 5-4 in the second set, for the first time this week.
It wasn't the best moment to get broken for the first time, but that's all normal, serving for the place in the Masters 1000 final.
Mathieu played well, beating tough rivals and dropping only a couple of games in the last matches. He made two double faults at 5-5 in the second set, losing focus for the first time and allowing me to seal the deal in straight sets.
If I meet Andre Agassi in the final, I will be thrilled; he is one of the best players in history. I hope he will win the second semi-final so I can play against him before he retires. He wasn't my idol, as I had none, but I watched him on TV. The crowd has been adorable, supporting me throughout the week, both on and off the court," Rafael Nadal said.