Rafael Nadal recalls: ‘The first big title is here, but I still have to work hard’

Struggling with injuries, Rafael Nadal failed to progress through the ATP ranking in 2004, despite winning his first ATP title. The youngster was ready to show his true colors in 2005, reaching the first Masters 1000 final in Miami and barely missing a chance to beat Roger Federer in straight sets. The Swiss prevailed after a thriller, and Nadal instantly left the defeat behind him, preparing for his beloved clay. Playing in Valencia already in the following week, Rafa lost in the quarters and took a few days off ahead of Monte Carlo, returning to the Principality for the first time since 2003 when he reached the third round at 16.

Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus stood no chance against the Spaniard, who delivered another superb performance to oust the defending Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio 6-3, 6-0 for a place in the semis. Rafa had to work harder in the next encounter, overpowering Richard Gasquet 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 after being a set and a break down to reach the second consecutive Masters 1000 final. After three hours and nine minutes, Nadal prevailed over the defending champion Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to become the second-youngest Masters 1000 champion at 18 years and ten months.

Rafael Nadal claimed the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo 2005.

The youngster had the upper hand in sets one and two, dictating the rallies with his forehand and standing strong on the return to mount a massive lead. Coria bounced back in set number three to deliver a bagel and erased a 4-1 deficit in set number four before propelling Nadal over the top after a late break for the Spaniard. Nadal saved 11 out of 16 break chances to limit the damage and secured seven breaks from 20 opportunities while keeping his focus at the end of the fourth set to lift the trophy and write history. Thrilled about the win, Rafael Nadal said that he would never forget his first notable title, although he still had to work hard to improve his game in the future.

“I will always remember my first big title, but I still have to improve my shots and tennis in general; that’s my objective, especially my serve, slice and volleys,” Rafael Nadal said.