The upcoming star Rafael Nadal made a name for himself in 2003 and 2004, playing well above his coevals and showing his full potential. Making giant steps towards the top of men's tennis, Rafa became an ATP champion in August 2004 and left injuries behind him to attack the leading ranking positions in 2005.
Nadal won the first Major crown at Roland Garros a few days after turning 19 and the world's second-best player behind Roger Federer a month later. After the US Open, Nadal conquered another title in Beijing (the tenth of the season) and led his country against Italy in the Davis Cup.
Struggling with a knee injury, Rafa 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 reached the quarter-final in Madrid 2005, where he faced Radek Stepanek.
In the third round, Nadal took down a fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes for his 15th quarter-final of the season from 21 tournaments!
The youngster Spaniard recovered from a break down in set number two to seal the deal in style and set the quarter-final clash with Radek Stepanek. Speaking about the upcoming encounter, Rafa praised the Czech and his indoor abilities.
Also, Nadal stated that he takes one step at a time, not thinking about the rest of the draw and focusing only on Stepanek. "There are no problems with my knee; I'm feeling well. This morning it hurt a bit, but it was fine when I started practicing.
I played much better than yesterday, and I would love to play in the final. It has been an incredible year, and I didn't expect that in January. I'm enthusiastic about the season's final stage, and then I'm looking forward to having some rest and heal my knee.
At the moment, I can only think about the quarter-final and my next rival, Radek Stepanek. He has been playing great, and it's not easy to beat him on an indoor court. I made the Davis Cup debut against him last year, and I have a good memory of that one.
I beat him twice on clay this spring, but those matches weren't easy. Radek is my only concern at the moment; I don't care about the rest," Rafael Nadal said.