Rafael Nadal proved himself as the youngster to watch in 2003, gaining 150 places on the ATP ranking list to settle into the top-50 at 17. The young Spaniard was ready for more in the following season, especially after reaching the first ATP final in Auckland ahead of the Australian Open. The 17-year-old made the Davis Cup debut in February against the Czech Republic, beating Radek Stepanek in the decisive rubber and producing his A-game in Miami a month later to stun the newly-crowned world no. 1 Roger Federer. A left ankle injury in Estoril sidelined Nadal from the court for three months and forced him to skip Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Rafa recovered nicely and earned the first ATP title in Sopot in August, becoming the youngest winner on the Tour since 1998. The youngster was a part of the Spanish Davis Cup team in Alicante in September, and he earned a chance to play in the Davis Cup final against the USA in Seville at the end of the season.
Rafael Nadal met world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the 2004 Davis Cup final.
“I believe Juan Carlos Ferrero should have played the second match tomorrow, but he is injured, and the captain decided to trust me and send me to the court instead. I can do a good job, and I wish there would be more than 10,000 spectators tomorrow; I’m happy about that. It will be very tough to beat Andy Roddick, but I’m ready. Andy is an excellent player who always delivers a high level of tennis, but I’m feeling confident after great practice runs this week. I have recovered, and I’m ready to play at my best. I have not played that much since Alicante, but I feel positive vibes about this encounter against world no. 2 Andy Roddick. I’m excited about playing my first match and a bit nervous, which is normal ahead of such an important duel. Back in January, I was almost a year younger than now, and I could not believe we would go this far and that I would have a chance to play in the final. I’m thrilled about the matches and to be a part of the team,” Rafael Nadal said.