Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘My first Major title was no surprise, I was among favorites’

Rafael Nadal has won 14 of the past 18 Roland Garros titles, dominating at a single Major like no one before him. Nadal made his Roland Garros debut in 2005 and claimed the title a couple of days after turning 19, standing as the last teenager with a Major crown. The Spanish youngster became a player to beat on clay that spring. He conquered Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome and gathered momentum ahead of Paris, where he took down Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta. Speaking about his first Parisian campaign, Nadal said his title did not come as a surprise, as he already had notable titles on the slowest surface. Following the semi-final victory over world no. 1 Roger Federer, Nadal ousted Mariano Puerta 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 in three hours and 24 minutes to become the fifth-youngest Major champion in the Open era.

Nadal landed 79% of the first serve in and repelled 11 out of 14 break chances to mount the pressure on the other side. Puerta gave his best in sets one and four, but it was not enough for a more favorable result, getting broken eight times from 18 opportunities offered to Rafa. The Spaniard was in front in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, while the Argentine led the mid-range ones. There was nothing to separate them in the most extended rallies, and Nadal brought the victory home after taking 18 points more than his opponent.

Rafa made a strong start and broke Mariano in the first game before creating more chances in games three and five. Puerta survived those and stole Nadal’s serve in game six to level the score at 3-3. They reached a tie break after almost an hour, and it saw seven consecutive mini-breaks. Rafa saved a set point at 5-6 before Mariano won the following two points to take the breaker 8-6. Nadal raised his level in set number two, scored a break at 2-1 and forged a 5-2 advantage. The Spaniard held at love at 5-3 to secure the set and gather a boost ahead of set number three. It was even more one-sided, with Nadal breaking in the first game and fending off two break points in the fourth to create a 3-1 lead.

Rafael Nadal claimed the first Major title at Roland Garros 2005.

The Argentine wasted a 40-15 advantage in game five to get broken again, powerless against the Spaniard’s strong forehand. The set was quickly over with another break of serve in game seven after Mariano’s double fault moved a teenager closer to the finish line. The fourth set started with a break of serve for Puerta, only his second of the match before Nadal broke back in the next one to get back on the positive side. The Spaniard was in trouble on serve at 3-3, coming back from 40-0 down with a good drop shot and two service winners.

The crowd got involved as the set reached an engaging closure when Puerta held at love to level the score at 4-4. A few minutes later, it looked like the final would go into the fifth set when the Argentine broke his young opponent and served for the set. Remaining focused, Nadal fended off three set points and grabbed a crucial break that locked them at 5-5. Mariano had to pay for the wasted chances in a well-established pattern, losing serve at 5-6 while serving to stay in the tournament. Rafa earned the match point after a great forehand down the line winner. He converted it when his opponent sprayed an unforced error to celebrate his first Major crown and forge a path toward tennis immortals.

“I do not think my first Roland Garros title came as a surprise. After winning the notable titles on clay in the previous weeks, I was already among the favorites. Victories in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome gave me confidence and energy to push hard and go all the way,” Rafael Nadal said.