Upcoming star Rafael Nadal made a name for himself in 2003 and 2004, playing well above his peers and showing his full potential. Taking giant steps towards the top of men's tennis, Rafa became ATP champion in August 2004 and left injuries behind to attack the top positions of the ranking in 2005.
Nadal won the first Major crown at Roland Garros a few days after turning 19 and the second best player in the world behind Roger Federer a month later. After the US Open, Nadal won another title in Beijing (the tenth of the season) and led his country against Italy in the Davis Cup.
Battling a knee injury, Rafa had to slow down and take a couple of weeks off, skipping Vienna and heading to Madrid despite not being 100%. Eager to compete in front of home fans for the first time since Barcelona six months earlier, Rafa did his best to bounce back and start with victory after a 7-6, 6-3 win over Victor Hanescu.
In the third round, Nadal defeated compatriot Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 19 minutes for his 15th quarterfinal of the season in 21 tournaments. The young Spaniard bounced back from a breakdown in set number two to seal the deal in style and set up the quarter-final clash with Radek Stepanek.
Speaking about the next match, Rafa praised the Czech and his skills on the indoor court. Furthermore, Nadal claimed that he takes one step at a time, without thinking about the rest of the frame and focusing only on Stepanek.
"There are no problems with my knee; I feel fine. 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 the final. It has been an incredible year and I was not expecting it in January.
I'm excited about the final stage of the season, and then I'm looking forward to getting some rest and healing my knee."
Rumors of Rafael Nadal’s retirement increasingly grew
For the past 16 years, three names have dominated world tennis.
Famously known as The ‘Big 3’, they continue to be at the heart of every conversation. As 1/3 of the ‘Big 3’, Novak Djokovic won his 6th Wimbledon title on Sunday, and he has brought the greats once again into the limelight.
Equaling the record of his fellow ‘G.O.A.T’s, Novak achieved a staggering 20th Grand Slam title win. With Roger Federer eliminated in the quarterfinals and Rafael Nadal not a part of the tournament, the title was Novak’s to win.
“There he showed me that he was ready to be the best player in history,” the Spaniard said. Impressed by that victory, Corettja said, “The best match of the year was the one where Djokovic beat Nadal at Roland Garros.
We grew up watching [Bjorn] Borg, [John] McEnroe, [Ivan] Lendl, [Mats] Wilander and none of them won 10 Grand Slams. We thought it would be impossible to overtake Sampras with 14. This generation is unique,” Alex said.