Making his Roland Garros debut in 2005, Rafael Nadal reached the semi-final and faced world no. 1 Roger Federer on his 19th birthday. The Spaniard toppled the Swiss 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 47 minutes to become the fifth-youngest Major finalist in the Open era.
It was their third meeting and the second triumph for Rafa, who prevented Roger from reaching the title clash at the only Major he was missing in his collection. Nadal won only 11 points more than Federer, serving at 73% and defending the second serve nicely to emerge at the top against the more experienced rival.
The youngster saved six out of 12 break points and grabbed nine return games from 13 opportunities to seal the deal and set the Mariano Puerta clash. Rafa stayed in touch with Roger in the shortest range up to four strokes, which was very important.
He toppled the world’s leading player in the more advanced ones, although there was little to separate them.
Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in four sets at 2005 Roland Garros.
Federer had more winners and 60 unforced errors, which plagued his chances for a better result.
A teenager earned a break at 15 in the encounter’s first game and held after two deuces for an early advantage. In the fourth game, the Spaniard held at love and scored another break that sent him 4-1 ahead following a forehand winner.
Federer seized the fourth break chance in the sixth game with a backhand winner to reduce the deficit. His forehand let him down again in the next one to lose serve for the third time and fall 5-2 down. Nadal wasted two set points on his serve in the eighth game, but he closed it with his fourth break in game nine for 6-3.
After a slight rain delay in the second set, the Swiss raised his level. He played better behind the initial shot and broke the Spaniard at 1-1. Roger seized the fourth break chance in the fifth game to forge a 4-1 advantage and held at love to move a game away from the set.
Serving at 5-2, the Swiss lost serve, but he fixed that on his second attempt at 5-4 to lock the overall score. After five commanding holds at the beginning of the third set, Nadal grabbed a break at 3-2 with a volley winner after taking four straight points for a massive boost.
Roger broke back in the next one and held for 4-4 and more drama. Nadal stayed calm and delivered another break at 5-4 with a volley winner to open two sets to one gap. Making another push, Federer took 12 out of 15 points from the fourth set’s second game to forge a 3-1 advantage, looking good to force a decider.
Instead, he squandered two game points in the sixth game and allowed Nadal to pull the break back and level the score at 3-3. The youngster grabbed another break in the eighth game and sealed the deal with a hold at 15 in the next one, rattling off five straight games and reaching the first Major final.