Rafa won in 4 sets and qualified for his first Grand Slam final. He won the title after a hard fought battle against Mariano Puerta in 4 sets 6-7(6) 6-3 6-1 7-5.

One month after their semi final in Monte Carlo, Gasquet and Nadal met in the third round of Roland Garros. An easy win for Nadal: 6-4 6-3 6-2.

5 years ago, many tennis insiders thought Nadal and Gasquet would fight for Grand Slam titles and the number one ranking.

Since his young age Richard Gasquet was touted as an extremely promising prospect.
At 9, he was on the cover of the french Tennis Magazine. At 15, he made his debut on the ATP Tour in Monte Carlo, and was seen as a future Grand Slam contender.
At 18, he beat world number one Roger Federer and earned the nickname “Baby Federer”. But over the ensuing years, it became more and more obvious that Gasquet would never live to the expectations.
And at 23, he faced a drug ban.

What about Nadal, his rival from junior days? 6 Grand Slam titles, 18 Masters Series, 3 Davis Cup. Enough said.

When Gasquet and Nadal met in semifinals in 2005, the French had caused a major upset, defeating Roger Federer 6-7 6-2 7-6 the previous round.
Big opposition of style between Gasquet the shot maker and Nadal the grinder. The latter would prevail after 3 tight sets.

Richard Gasquet
Rafael Nadal

Eric Deblicker (left), Gasquet’s coach from 2004 to 2008:

Eric Deblicker

The next day, Nadal would capture his first Masters Series title with a 4 sets win over defending champion Guillermo Coria.

One month later Nadal and Gasquet would meet again, in the third round of Roland Garros. An easy 6-4 6-3 6-2 win for Nadal. On his 19th birthday, Nadal defeated Federer in the 2005 French Open semifinals and two days later, he defeated Mariano Puerta in the final.

Richard Gasquet is a really gifted player, with one of the most beautiful and efficient backhand of the ATP Tour. BUT. Gasquet is a headcase and will probably join Nalbandian, Rios and Safin on the “biggest underachievers” list.
What do you think? Do you think he can go back to top ten?

More:
– both Nadal and Federer won eleven singles titles and in 2005
– Nadal won the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year award in 2005
– with his win in 05′ RG, he became the second player to win a Grand Slam on his first attempt after Mats Wilander in 1982

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4gK_hfJS6E[/youtube]

Probably the match which really launched Nadal‘s pro career.

Playing his first full season on the ATP Tour, Nadal won his first title in Sopot, Poland and was one of only four players to beat Roger Federer.
He made his Davis Cup debut in the first round of Davis Cup 2004 against Czech Republic, losing the first match against Jiri Novak but winning the decisive fifth rubber against Radek Stepanek and qualifying Spain for the quarterfinals.
Nadal was decisive once against in semi vs France: he beat the pair Clement/Llodra partnering Tommy Robredo, and he replaced Moya for the reverse singles and beat Arnaud Clement to clinch Spain’s victory.

Spain (Ferrero, Moya, Nadal and Robredo) faced the USA (Roddick, Fish, Bryans) in final on the red clay of Seville.
98 Roland Garros champion Carlos Moya defeated Mardy Fish in straight sets in the opening rubber.

The lowest ranked Spaniard (n°51), Nadal had only been expected to play the doubles alongside Tommy Robredo but he was named to replace Ferrero in singles.
2004 was a nightmare season for 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero: despite making the Oz Open semies, his ranking dropped from third to 31st. He didn’t win any title that year and finally, he was overlooked in favour of the 18-year-old Mallorcan.

Arrese’s decision proved to be the right one as Nadal beat world number two Andy Roddick 6-7(6) 6-2 7-6(6) 6-2. It was the second meeting between those two as Roddick won easily 3 months earlier in the second round of the US Open.

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