Two decades after playing his first ATP match, Rafael Nadal is still among the world’s best players. Rafa has won 22 Major titles and 36 Masters 1000 trophies, overcoming numerous injuries and giving everything to extend his career. Nadal has been ranked inside the top-10 for over 17 years without leaving the elite group, cracking it in 2005 and never getting out. Nadal’s first ATP title came in Sopot in August 2004 at 18, with much higher goals for the following season. Rafa spoke about his main targets for 2005 at the start of the season in Melbourne. The youngster mentioned a place in the top-15 and his first Roland Garros appearance as his primary goals.
The Spaniard gained 150 spots on the list in 2003 following his first Challenger titles and victories at Majors and the Masters 1000 events. Rafa had to skip Roland Garros in 2003 and 2004 due to injuries, and he was eager to change that in 2005. Nadal kicked off the season with the fourth round at the Australian Open. Rafa defeated Julien Benneteau, Mikhail Youzhny and Bobby Reynolds before giving his 120% against Lleyton Hewitt. Still, the Aussie prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 after three hours and 53 minutes to halt the youngster’s progress.
Rafael Nadal revealed his season’s goals at the Australian Open 2005.
Hewitt won just two points more than Nadal, who had a clear advantage over the home star in sets two and three. Rafa dominated on serve and return and missed a chance to seal the deal in the fourth. A teenager ran out of steam in the decider to hand the victory to his opponent. After the encounter, Nadal said he played on a high level despite finishing on the losing side. He hoped to crack the top-20 or top-15 in the rest of the season and finally make his Roland Garros debut. As we all know, the Spaniard achieved that and plenty more, winning 79 out of 89 encounters and adding 11 titles to his tally for one of the greatest seasons for a teenager in tennis history. Also, he finished in the top-2 alongside Roger Federer and became the men’s tennis second-strongest link.
“My mission for this season is to finally play at Roland Garros and crack the top-20 or top-15,” Rafael Nadal said.