Rafa Rewind, 2005: After beating Federer, Nadal wins first French Open

Rafa Rewind, 2005: After beating Federer, Nadal wins first French Open

There's no French Open this fortnight, but we're not postponing our celebration of the Spaniard's record-setting Roland Garros run. Today, we revisit his extraordinary tournament debut.

He's experienced close calls throughout each of his 12 Roland Garros title runs. But every time, Rafael Nadal has ultimately shown a killer instinct. Today, we look back at the Spaniard's first trip to the French capital.


2005 French Open

May 23: a poised prodigy takes No. 1 Court for the first—and last—time at Roland Garros, in his debut against Lars Burgsmuller. A sleeveless shirt and pirate pants characterize Rafael Nadal’s teenage style, but the Spaniard commands a strategic, powerful presence well beyond his years. Nadal would dismiss Burgsmuller in straight sets, and in turn, usher in a new era of clay-court tennis. On his 19th birthday, Nadal upstaged Roger Federer in the semifinals before claiming his first Grand Slam title over Mariano Puerta, completing a stellar spring that included titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona to go with a 24-match clay-court win streak.

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Most Impressive win: Semifinals; Nadal d. Federer, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
They had met before, trading victories in Miami (2004-05), but the magnitude of this moment was far greater, with both seeking to reach their first French Open final. Top-ranked Federer opened a 3-1 lead in the fourth set before Nadal ran off the final five games to win the first of many Grand Slam meetings to come.

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Closest call: Final; Nadal d. Puerta, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5
Playing for his first Slam title, Nadal was already in unfamiliar territory: fellow left-hander Puerta won a tiebreaker to put Nadal in a one-set deficit for the first time. Nadal saved three set points with Puerta serving at 5-4 in the fourth set, and relied on his incredible instincts and endless energy to become the first teen since Pete Sampras (1990 US Open) to lift a major singles trophy.