Rafael Nadal restarted his 2020 season at the Rome Masters this year, after a six-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is easy to see why he chose this tournament to make his return; he has been the champion in the Italian capital a whopping nine times.
The Spaniard has had many memorable victories at the Italian Open over the years, against all manner of great claycourt players. Speaking to the press this week, Nadal reminisced about his remarkable victory in the 2005 final, where he prevailed over Guillermo Coria in five sets to win his maiden title at the historic venue.
'Super emotional in the fifth' - Rafael Nadal on the incredible finish in the Rome 2005 final
Select Masters tournaments had best-of-five-set finals in the early 2000s, and the Italian Open was one of them. Rafael Nadal spoke very fondly of his first title in Rome, which came in the bo5 era, claiming it played a big part in building his confidence for the first complete clay swing of his career.
"Yeah... that final," said the 19-time Grand Slam champion. "It has been unforgettable."
"It was one of the best finals of my tennis career. No doubt about that. I was super tired before that much and it was the first year I had played the full clay court season, having had success in Monte Carlo and Barcelona," Nadal added.
The Spaniard, who was aged just 18 at the time, came through in five grueling sets against Argentine Guillermo Coria to win the tournament on his maiden appearance there. The end of the match in particular, which reached a deciding set tiebreak that ended 8-6 in the favor of Rafael Nadal, was a big breakthrough for the southpaw.
"The quality of tennis had been huge. It was super emotional in the fifth. It's one of the matches that I am not forgetting," asserted Nadal.
Following the 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, 4–6, 7–6 triumph in the Rome final, the Spaniard went on to win his first Grand Slam title at the French Open. Nadal defeated then World No. 1 Roger Federer in the semifinal on his way to the trophy, becoming one of the youngest ever Grand Slam champions in the men's game.
Rafael Nadal will be looking to replicate his form in 2005, just the way he did last year, where he won both the Rome Masters and the French Open. If he were to complete the feat this year, however, it would be extra special.
If the Spaniard is to win the French Open for which he is the favorite, it would not only be a record-extending 13th Roland Garros title, but also a 20th Grand Slam title - which would equal Roger Federer's all-time record.