Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘Andy Roddick match marked my early career’

Staying away from the junior tournaments, young Rafael Nadal wanted to join the professional Tour as soon as possible and show his skills. Rafa got a chance to compete and gather experience in 2001 and 2002 and was ready to rumble in 2003. The Spaniard passed 150 rivals on the ATP list that year, winning two Challenger titles from six finals and scoring notable victories at the Masters 1000 and Major level. Rafa was ready to attack higher ranking positions in the following season, reaching the first ATP final in Auckland in the opening week of 2004 and toppling world no. 1 Roger Federer in Miami in straight sets. Still, his progress ceased after an ankle injury in Estoril, staying away from the court until July and needing time to regain form despite the first ATP title in Sopot in August. In September, the youngster was in the Spanish squad against France in the Davis Cup semi-final in Alicante.

Nadal beat Arnaud Clement in straight sets and wished for more in the final in Seville versus the USA. Four years after the first, Spain conquered the second Davis Cup title in front of a partisan crowd of 25,000. Nadal performed on a very high level to oust world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the second rubber. Carlos Moya sent Spain in front with a commanding triumph over Mardy Fish before an 18-year-old Nadal stepped on the court instead of injured Juan Carlos Ferrero. In his fourth Davis Cup singles rubber that year, Nadal prevailed over Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in just under three hours and 40 minutes, propelling his country 2-0 up after the first day and starting a massive celebration with his teammates. Roddick gave his best to stay in touch with the young opponent, taking the opening set in the tie break and reaching another one at 1-1. Rafa claimed it to open two sets to one advantage and sealed the deal with a strong performance in the fourth. 

Rafael Nadal defeated world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the 2004 Davis Cup.

“The match against Roddick in the 2004 Davis Cup final is one of those that marked my career, and I will never forget it. People remember my performance for the freshness and how young I was, but the real architect of the victory was Carlos Moya, who brought us two points. I think I claimed victory because the crowd was there to support me; it was essential. I had some notable matches in every stage of my career, and this is one of them, especially after that injury. I played at a very high level and deserved the triumph after working hard on the practice court. It was a tough year for me, and I’m thrilled with how I performed today. Andy’s serves go 230 km/h; I’m happy with how I returned them, particularly in the most critical moments in the tie breaks. After the match, I did not remember Roddick or McEnroe or anything; all I wanted was to celebrate with my teammates. I learned today that I must calm down a little during the match and get less excited. Davis Cup is a completely different competition, which helped me believe I’m a good player. I have left injuries behind me, which brings the confidence back ahead of the new season,” Rafael Nadal said.