Rafael Nadal, 18, suffered injuries in the second half of 2004. Still, the youngest claimed the first ATP title in Sopot in August and helped Spain win the Davis Cup at home in Seville to get a big boost before 2005. The youngster led two sets to one against Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open before losing in five sets, bouncing back on clay a couple of weeks later and claiming two ATP titles in as many weeks.
After a well deserved rest, Rafa went to Miami and showed his skills on hard courts, advancing to the first Masters 1000 final and forging a huge advantage over Roger Federer. The Swiss stayed within two points of defeat on two occasions before turning the tables and winning the match in five sets, leaving Nadal empty-handed.
The Spaniard returned to Europe and began his beloved clay swing, surrendering his A game to defeat three opponents in Monte Carlo and advance to the last eight. Rafael Nadal won his 12th Barcelona title on Sunday, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in a hard-fought final.
The win came 16 years after Nadal lifted his first trophy in the Spanish city, reinforcing just how incredible his longevity at the top of men's tennis has been.
Rafael Nadal talks in detail about physical conditioning
"For many years I heard that I would have a short career because of my style of play," Rafael Nadal said.
"At the end of the day, I'm still here, fighting for the biggest titles. I love tennis. I'm proud of it." The 34-year-old disclosed how he had been in very good shape before entering the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters, but then ran into an in-form Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals.
"In sport, it's difficult to plan things, as it's quite unpredictable," Nadal said. "We try to be as ready as possible in every tournament. In fact, I arrived at Monte Carlo in very good shape, both in confidence and game, but then you have a bad match against a great player.
So in sport you have to be ready to accept anything that could happen," Nadal said. "Obviously, Roland Garros is always marked in my calendar and I'll do my best to get there in the best possible way. But there is still a long way till then."
In 2019 Rafa defeated Roger with a clear 3-0 in Paris, before the rematch enjoyed by the Swiss a month later, always in the semifinals, on the meadows of Wimbledon. In the week of Barcelona, whose central court has already been named after the strongest Spanish tennis player ever - Pista Rafa Nadal -, the Majorcan reached another, yet another, monstrous figure in terms of tennis played on crushed brick : beating the Japanese Kei Nishikori, in fact, Nadal has filed the victory number 450 on the red fields, streak then extended to 452 after the success in the final.