Facing an 18-year-old in an ATP final is usually a promising sign, as your rival lacks experience from the notable matches. Of course, that was not the case when Albert Montanes faced the young compatriot Rafael Nadal in the 2005 Acapulco final. Turning 19 in June of that year, Rafa claimed 79 wins and 11 titles in a historic season for a teenager, becoming world no. 2 and Roger Federer’s greatest rival. Nadal stormed over his opponents in Acapulco, claiming the second ATP title in Costa do Sauipe a week earlier and gathering a boost ahead of his debut in Mexico.
Rafa was the dominant figure in Acapulco, dropping 30 games in ten sets and delivering a one-sided final. The youngster ousted Alex Calatrava 6-4, 6-4, Santiago Ventura 7-6, 6-2 and Guillermo Canas 7-5, 6-3, prevailing in the crucial moments and suffering only two breaks. The Spaniard toppled Mariano Puerta in the semi-final (they would play the Roland Garros final in June) to set the title clash against a compatriot Albert Montanes. It was the third ATP final for the more experienced Spaniard and the third loss, with an 18-year-old forging a rock-solid 6-1, 6-0 victory in 52 minutes! Serving at 78%, Rafa lost eight points in seven service games, never facing a break chance and mounting the pressure on the other side.
Rafael Nadal claimed his third ATP title in Acapulco in February 2005.
Montanes was far from those numbers, giving away 60% of the points behind the initial shot and suffering five breaks from nine chances offered to Nadal. The youngster had over 20 winners and under ten unforced errors, controlling the shortest and more advanced exchanges for the season’s 17th victory. Rafa held at 15 in the encounter’s first game to get his name to the scoreboard and secured a break after Albert’s double fault. A teenager opened a 3-0 lead with three winners and settled into a perfect rhythm. Montanes sprayed an error from his one-handed backhand to give serve away for the second time and fall 4-0 down.
Nadal moved further in front thanks to an incredible forehand winner a few minutes later. Serving at 0-5, Albert held at 15 to avoid the bagel before Rafa closed the opener with an ace for 6-1. The younger Spaniard scored another break at the start of the second set and held at love after a volley winner. Nadal landed a forehand down the line winner for a break and a 3-0 advantage, rattling off nine out of ten games and putting one hand on the trophy. Rafa extended the lead with a service winner and placed a backhand winner to steal the opponent’s serve and move 5-0 ahead. Three winners in the sixth game propelled a teenager toward his third ATP title at 18, leaving his rival without any chances.
“Rafa came to Acapulco after winning the title in Brazil and was already the favorite despite his age. I won only one game against him in the final, as I could not match his level. I had some hopes before the match, but he was too tough to beat. He did not play aggressive tennis but was rock-solid from the baseline, staying focused and celebrating the crucial points like he scored a goal,” Albert Montanes said.