Despite many setbacks after March, Rafael Nadal wrapped up the 2004 season in glory, defeating world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the Davis Cup final in Seville and becoming the youngest player with a live rubber triumph in the finals of the most prominent team competition.
Starting the following season from just outside the top-50, Nadal lost in the Doha quarter-final to Ivan Ljubicic and retired in the first match in Auckland, having some breathing issues and hoping to play with no troubles at the season's first Major in Melbourne.
The youngster made a great start against Julien Benneteau before surviving a stern Mikhail Youzhny test in five sets to enter the last 32. There, Bobby Reynolds couldn't do much against the world's most promising youngster, who lost only five games and sealed the deal in under 90 minutes to preserve energy for the long-awaited clash against Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round on Rod Laver Arena.
Rafael Nadal suffered a tight loss against Lleyton Hewitt in Melbourne 2005.
The Aussie defeated the Spaniard in 2004 after winning two tie breaks, having to work even harder a year later in a 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 triumph after three hours and 53 minutes.
Hewitt won just two points more than his opponent, who had a massive advantage on the court in sets two and three, motivated to show his best tennis in the deepest run at Majors up to that point. In the end, Hewitt survived all the fourth set's challenges to secure the win in the tie break, leaving the youngster with nothing left in the tank in the decider.
Rafa grabbed five breaks, and Lleyton responded with six, delivering his best tennis in the tie break where he had no room for errors and using that momentum to race through a decider and leave a teenager empty-handed. After the match, Nadal praised both his opponent and his performance, mentioning those chances in the fourth set and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the season.
"I don't think I run out of gas in the fourth set; that happened in the fifth as I had problems with cramps. I had my chances in the fourth, standing at 30-15 on the return a couple of times. I didn't play badly in the crucial moments, but Lleyton played them better; that's why he won.
I was close to the finish line in the fourth, and once I missed that, there was no way for me to come back in the fifth, especially after Lleyton's good start; I couldn't do anything after that. His experience made the difference, playing a lot of matches like this before.
Still, I'm happy with the way I performed, staying in touch for four sets and having my chances to beat world no. 3. If I maintain this level, I can achieve some big things this year. Lleyton and I are not that similar; I think I'm attacking more, while he has much better serve," Rafael Nadal said.
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