Almost 21 years after playing his first ATP match, Rafael Nadal is still among the best players in the world and a Majors winner. Rafa has won 22 Majors and 36 Masters 1000, overcoming numerous injuries and giving everything to extend his career.
Nadal has been ranked within the top-10 for almost 18 years without leaving the elite group, which he joined in 2005 and from which he has never left. Nadal’s first ATP title came in Sopot in August 2004 at the age of 18, and his goals were much higher in the coming season after winning the Davis Cup for Spain in December.
Rafa spoke about his main goals for 2005 at the start of the season in Melbourne. The young tennis player cited a top-15 finish and his first appearance at Roland Garros as his main goals. The Spaniard gained 150 ATP roster spots in 2003 following his first Challenger titles and Majors and Masters 1000 victories.
Rafa had to skip Roland Garros in 2003 and 2004 due to injuries, eager to change that in 2005. Nadal kicked off the season with the fourth round of the Australian Open. Rafa defeated Julien Benneteau, Mikhail Youzhny and Bobby Reynolds before giving his 120% against Lleyton Hewitt.
Even so, the Australian prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 and 6-2 after three hours and 53 minutes to stop the progression of the young tennis player. Hewitt won just two more points than Nadal, who had a clear lead over the home star in sets two and three.
Rafa dominated with the serve and the return and missed an opportunity to seal the game in the fourth.
Steve Flink on Rafa Nadal
Tennis journalist Steve Flink reckons that Novak Djokovic will not be able to win as many Australian Open titles as Rafael Nadal has at the French Open.
“I don’t think so and I am an ardent admirer of Djokovic’s. I can see him getting a couple more. I don’t see four more at this stage of his career, no, that would be astounding. Yet, it wouldn’t shock me to see a couple more. So, I don’t see the other four happening,” Flink said.
“So many complicated injuries and the abdominal thing this past year and the foot, and the knees don’t act up anymore. There seems to always be something new cropping up and he’s so injury prone and so gutsy at coming back from these injuries.
But I wonder if this time he’ll be able to, because you think about last year with Nadal, how he left Rome, beaten by (Denis) Shapovalov,” Flink said.
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