Rafael Nadal claimed his first Major title at Roland Garros debut in 2005, a couple of days after his 19th birthday. The young Spaniard became a player to beat on clay that spring, conquering Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome and gaining momentum ahead of Paris, where he took down Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta.
Speaking of his first Paris campaign, Nadal said his title came as no surprise, as he already had notable titles on clay. Following the semi-final victory over world no. 1 Roger Federer, Nadal defeated 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 and rejected 11 of 14 break chances to increase 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 the 18 chances offered to Rafa.
The Spaniard took the lead in the shorter rallies up to four strokes, while the Argentine led the medium distance rallies. There was nothing to separate them in the longer rallies, and Nadal took home victory after scoring 18 points more than his rival.
Rafa got off to a good start in his first Major final and broke Mariano in the first game, with 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 saw seven consecutive mini-breaks.
Rafa saved a set point at 5-6 before Mariano won the next two points to take the tie break 8-6. Nadal leveled him up in set number two, scoring a break at 2-1 and forging a 5-2 lead. The Spaniard held to love at 5-3 to clinch the set and level the overall score, gaining a boost ahead of set number three.
McEnroe on Rafa Nadal
On “tour” for a few weeks on the occasion of the release of his documentary, already in theaters across the Channel, John McEnroe distills a lot of clear-cut opinions. Once again for Tennis365, the American raves about the resilience and state of mind of Rafael Nadal.
“I have never seen anyone like him. I thought Jimmy Connors was trying hard until I saw Rafael Nadal, that’s insane. And that is the greatest quality he has, by far. The guy is an amazing player, we all know that. But the fact that he can go out on the court and put in that kind of effort is something that people yearn for, but it’s very hard to do,” McEnroe said.