Rafael Nadal made his professional debut in 2001, just playing youth tournaments and notching the first ATP victory at home in Mallorca in April 2002. Nadal surpassed the top 50 in 2003 and stayed there for a couple of seasons despite setbacks with the injuries. Rafa won the first ATP title in August 2004 and helped Spain win the Davis Cup crown at the end of the season. The young Spaniard set his eyes on even higher goals in 2005, lifting two ATP trophies on clay in February and reaching the first Masters 1000 final in Miami, two points away from a straight-sets victory against Roger Federer. The Swiss stole the win in five sets, but the best was yet to come for an 18-year-old in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome heading into Roland Garros. Carried away by great momentum, a teenager made a perfect Parisian debut despite feeling the pressure, beating Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta to lift the first Major trophy, become No. 3 and gain momentum before the second part of the year. The results weren’t as good on grass, and Nadal was back in his prime at Bastad and Stuttgart, adding more trophies to his account and traveling to Montreal as the top seed after Roger Federer’s retirement. Rafa defeated his friend and compatriot Carlos Moyá 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and 38 minutes in the first round.
Panatta praises Roger Federer
Former French Open champion Adriano Panatta penned a heartfelt letter to Roger Federer on the Swiss’ 40th birthday. In the letter published in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Panatta waxed lyrical about Federer’s abilities, declaring that there is unlikely to ever be a player like the Swiss in the future. “Dear Roger, first of all best wishes for your 40th birthday,” wrote Adriano Panatta. “I don’t remember exactly when I saw you play the first time, but I have well in mind the impression you gave me: you were little more than a kid, but you had something different than the others.” Panatta highlighted this fact in his letter but was quick to point out that he also considers Djokovic and Nadal “great champions.” “Federer, you do things that others don’t,” he wrote. “Attention, I’m not saying that the other two big names are not great champions: Nadal’s desire to fight or Djokovic’s defense are exceptional, but Roger, even when he loses, always pulls out those two or three shots that can’t be done. But it’s not just the technique that makes it unique,” he went on. “He is an exceptional, polite, modest guy. Roger and Nadal have a great merit: they made tennis more popular, they showed its best side.”