By 2003, Rafael Nadal was already among the world's most prominent youngsters, cracking the top-50 at 17 and winning the first ATP title a year later. Despite struggling on an indoor surface, Nadal competed in Basel in 2003 and 2004, losing in the first round and hoping to change that in 2005.
The Spaniard became world no. 2 in the mentioned season after claiming the first Major crown at Roland Garros, also adding four Masters 1000 crowns to stand as Roger Federer's main rival. After the US Open, Nadal conquered another title in Beijing and led his country against Italy in the Davis Cup.
Struggling with a knee injury, Nadal had to slow down and take a couple of weeks off, skipping Vienna and heading to Madrid despite not being at 100%. Eager to compete in front of the home fans for the first time since Barcelona six months earlier, Rafa did his best to recover and make a winning start following a 7-6, 6-3 triumph over Victor Hanescu.
Rafael Nadal wasn't sure about playing in Basel 2005 after a knee injury.
Rafa made a slow start before pulling the break back, performing another comeback in the tie break and never looking back. Nadal's knee felt fine, and he was hoping for a good run in front of the home fans, who were always there to support him.
Rafa couldn't say much about competing in Basel in the following week, saying that he has to check everything with the doctors after he finishes his Madrid duties. "My knee was fine. It didn't hurt at the beginning, just a bit when I stepped in.
I think I played well, and it wasn't easy today. I didn't play for three weeks, and I was a bit slow and nervous. My serve was there, and I was happy with my performance. It's been a long since I last played here in Spain, so I was looking forward to playing here.
I think the crowd is behaving really well, both on the court and on the training courts. I'm thankful. I feel support every time I play in Spain, and that gives me confidence. I can't think about Shanghai now; Madrid is essential for me, and I'm focused on my next match.
I didn't make a decision about Basel next week. I want to play, but it depends on my knees and what the doctors would say after Madrid," says Rafael Nadal.