In February 2005, Rafael Nadal faced Ricardo Mello for two and a half hours on his way to the Costa do Sauipe title. Half a year later, the Spaniard would lose three games to the Brazilian in the second round of the Canada Masters in Montreal to secure a place in the third round.
A lot had happened between those two meetings, with Nadal becoming one of the best players in the world after a fantastic run in his first notable season. In February, Rafa won two ATP titles on clay before reaching the final in Miami and winning the first Monte Carlo Masters 1000.
The youngster conquered Barcelona and Rome in the following weeks and had a perfect debut at Roland Garros, beating Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta to lift his first Major trophy. Rafa did not play well on grass, losing early in Halle and Wimbledon to run out of steam.
However, he bounced back quickly, winning titles in Bastad and Stuttgart in July and taking a break before Montreal. Playing for the first time as world number 2, Nadal debuted with victory at the Canadian Masters thanks to a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory over his compatriot and friend, Carlos Moyá.
In the second round, the youngster had a more relaxed day at the office, defeating Ricardo Mello 6-1 6-2 in 66 minutes after dominating from start to finish. The Spaniard gave up 11 points in eight service games, facing no break points and converting 56% of return points to earn four breaks from seven chances and advance to the round of 16.
Speaking of his game on hard courts, Nadal mentioned the improvements from the previous season, listing his good results and expecting an outstanding performance in Montreal. “When I played against Melo in Brazil, it was a reliable performance, but without the confidence that I have now” Both on the track and on the street, Rafael Nadal is a man who respects the rules.
Except for that day in July 2006 when he crashed his car into a concrete pole.
Rafa won the AO and the FO
Stan Wawrinka was asked if Rafael Nadal’s achievements over the years were inspirational to him. “No, I think what Rafa has done this year and all his career, like it’s amazing to watch as a tennis fan.
You cannot take anything as a player, because he’s in [a] different league, always been and always will be,” he said. “It’s always amazing to watch him play, to watch him compete, and to watch him at the top of the game after so many years. I enjoy watching him. But as I say, as a player, you cannot take anything,” he added.