Rafael Nadal opens up - 'I would love to face Andre Agassi before he retires'

Tennis - Nadal reached the final in Rome in 2005, facing Agassi or Coria in the title match

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal opens up - 'I would love to face Andre Agassi before he retires'

Rafael Nadal was a player on the mission in the opening months of the 2005 season, winning two titles on beloved clay and standing two points away from the Miami crown. Roger Federer toppled the youngster in that one, and Nadal needed no time to bounce back, conquering the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo following a hard-fought victory over Guillermo Coria in over three hours.

A week later, Rafa lifted the trophy in front of the home fans in Barcelona, taking a well-deserved week off and making a debut in Rome at the beginning of May. Missing the event in the Italian capital in the previous two years due to injuries, Nadal was the favorite for the title, still before the 19th birthday.

Rafa reached the third straight Masters 1000 final with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over his compatriot David Ferrer in two and a half hours.

Rafael Nadal could face Andre Agassi in the final in Rome 2005.

Nadal suffered six breaks from seven chances offered to Ferrer, digging deep and securing seven return games from nine break points on the other side, enough to cross the finish line first.

David had more winners and more errors, staying in touch with Rafa in the more extended rallies and losing ground slightly in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes. Nadal grabbed an early lead, and Ferrer bounced back with a break in game eight, gathering momentum and securing another break at 5-4 to clinch the opener in style.

The second set saw back-to-back breaks in games three and four and again at 3-3, with the rivals staying close to each other until the crucial break for Rafa in game nine, as he sealed the set with a hold at love to gain a boost ahead of the decider.

Nadal served for the win at 5-4 but got broken, staying composed and taking eight of the last nine points to seal the deal before the tie break and secure the place in the title match against Andre Agassi or Guillermo Coria.

"I felt a bit tired, both mentally and physically; still, I fought hard for every ball and earned the victory. I felt thrilled when that backhand landed in to offer me a match point. David was the better player in sets one and two, but I got back into contention after a few misses from his side.

I played better and better in the decider as the set progressed, finishing on a high note. Agassi is one of the greatest players in history, and I would love to face him before he retires. I have played many matches recently, and it wasn't easy today; it's impossible to play well every day. I didn't play in the way I wanted in the opening two sets but managed to improve my level," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Andre Agassi