Asked about the most excellent Masters 1000 match, Kei Nishikori had no doubts. The Japanese picked that epic Rome 2005 final between Rafael Nadal and Guillermo Coria, saying he remembers it well and watching it again when he has time. Rafael Nadal was just 18 and a half when the 2005 season started and was the only player who could deal with Roger Federer in the first four months, lifting four titles on clay and losing an epic Miami final to Roger in five sets. Rafa won the first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, followed by a triumph in Barcelona a week later before taking seven days off and traveling to Rome as the top-10 player for the first time! There, the young Spaniard defeated five rivals to set up the final meeting against Guillermo Coria on May 8, claiming an epic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 triumph in five hours and 14 minutes, in what had been the longest ATP final in the Open era at that moment!
It is hard to describe the level of tennis these two produced in this excellent encounter, pushing each other to the limits all the time and forcing that extra shot in the rally from the other side of the net in a ruthless baseline battle. The Centre Court at Foro Italico had never witnessed a contest like this before (it would again just 12 months later), with two of the finest clay courters giving their best for every point and keeping the ball on the forehand wing as much as possible. We saw four aces in the entire match, and the winner had to emerge in the ultimate baseline clash, with almost 100 points reaching the ten-shot mark! Despite his fantastic defense skills, Coria knew he had to find a different approach to overpower a teenager, trying to impose his shots and break Nadal’s rhythm with drop shots, net rushings and more risky shots.
Nishikori picked Rome 2005 final with Nadal, Coria as the Masters 1000 best.
The Argentine was more successful in the shortest points, but Nadal would gain the more exciting rallies to emerge as a winner and grab his second Masters 1000 title within a couple of weeks. There were 37 break chances in total, with nine breaks of serve on each side. Guillermo was closer to the finish line in the decider, standing a point away from a 4-0 lead that would have broken Nadal’s resistance. Nonetheless, Rafa bounced back and won a tie break 8-6 to celebrate his career’s most significant title and gain a massive boost ahead of the upcoming Roland Garros.
“I didn’t see it live, but the most excellent Masters 1000 match, in my opinion, was the 2005 Rome five-setter final between Rafael Nadal and Guillermo Coria. I remember it, and I still watch it sometimes, even now. That was a great, great match,” Kei Nishikori said.