An 18-year-old Rafael Nadal entered the 2005 season from just outside the top-50, standing as one of the Tour’s most promising youngsters. The Spaniard had some higher goals, though, needing only a couple of months to establish himself as the Tour’s second-strongest link behind Roger Federer, lifting the first Masters 1000 titles and Roland Garros crown within a few weeks. Rafa won back-to-back titles on clay in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco in February, skipped Indian Wells and entered Miami, where he lost a thrilling final to Roger Federer, being two sets to love up and two points away from the finish line. With no time for rest, Rafa caught the first flight to Europe, heading to Valencia and returning to his beloved clay, ready to give his best despite two challenging weeks in Florida and that grueling final.
Juan Carlos Ferrero and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez stood no chance against the mighty youngster in the opening two rounds before Igor Andreev took down Rafa 7-5, 6-2 in an hour and 40 minutes on April 8 to halt the youngster’s progress and give him a few days off before Monte Carlo Masters.
Rafael Nadal lost in Valencia 2005 before winning the next 81 matches on clay.
Rafa broke the Russian three times but had nothing left in the tank after the opener, suffering only the 13th loss in the ATP clay matches. It was Rafa’s last ATP loss on clay before the unmatched streak he would rattle off, winning the following 81 encounters on the slowest surface to set the record! Conquering his first Masters 1000 crown in Monte Carlo, Nadal was undefeated on the beloved surface for over two years until Roger Federer ousted him in the Hamburg final in 2007.
Nadal won 13 straight ATP titles on clay during that period, including three Roland Garros and six Masters 1000 crowns to establish himself as one of the greatest clay-courters ever at 20! Guillermo Coria, Roger Federer and few other players were there to challenge Rafa on clay in those years, but none of them could make the last push and defeat the Spaniard in his kingdom. Finally, Federer ended Nadal’s streak in the 2007 Hamburg final after a dominant display in sets two and three. Nadal has won 445 out of 485 ATP matches on clay in his glorious career, claiming 60 ATP titles on the beloved surface and 13 of those at Roland Garros.