Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘It was a tough year, and this victory makes it much better’

Rafael Nadal gained 150 positions on the ATP list in 2003, winning two Challenger titles from six finals and scoring some notable victories at the Masters 1000 and a Major level to become the youngster to beat. Rafa was ready to attack higher ranking positions in the following season, reaching the first ATP final in Auckland at the beginning of the season and toppling world no. 1 Roger Federer in Miami. Still, an ankle injury in Estoril halted his progress and had kept him away from the court until July. Nadal claimed the first ATP title in August and got the opportunity to play against France in the Davis Cup semi-final in Alicante in September, beating Arnaud Clement. Four years after the first, Spain conquered the second Davis Cup title in front of the partisan crowd of 25,000 in Seville in December, with Nadal performing on a very high level to oust world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the second rubber.

Rafael Nadal beat Andy Roddick in the 2004 Davis Cup final.

Carlos Moya sent Spain in front with a commanding triumph over Mardy Fish, and an 18-year-old Nadal stepped on the court next instead of Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was dealing with an injury. 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. Nadal described the victory as one of the most important ones from his early career, especially after those injuries and the season where he failed to improve his ranking.

“I think I claimed victory because the crowd was there to support me; it was essential for me. I had some notable matches in every stage of my career, and this is one of them, especially after that injury. I played on a very high level; I deserved the triumph after working very hard on the practice court. It was a tough year for me, and I’m thrilled with the way I performed today. Andy serves reached 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. Davis Cup is a completely different competition from any other, and it helped me believe that I’m a good player. Also, I have left injuries behind me, bringing the confidence back ahead of the new season,” Rafael Nadal said.