Rewind: Rafael Nadal's first match at French Open in 2005 which established him as a legend

Rafael Nadal defeated Lars Burgsmuller in three straight sets to begin an unprecedented run in the French Open that would see him rewrite the history books.

Rafael Nadal won the 2005 French Open and he has gone on to win the title 13 times. (Image credit: Twitter)

Rafael Nadal is a legend when it comes to the French Open. His records at Roland Garros are simply staggering. From 2005 till 2020, Nadal has dominated the French Open unlike any other player. The statistics might never be broken in history. However, it is worth revisiting the first match that he played at the French Open. In 2005, Rafael Nadal had made some big moves in the world of Tennis. Prior to 2005, he was one of the six players who had defeated Roger Federer in 2004 when the Swiss maestro was at his peak. Nadal had also helped Spain win the Davis Cup when he defeated Andy Roddick.

In 2005, there were glimpses that he would be one of the greatest players in the world. Prior to the 2005 French Open, he started winning matches in grand style on clay courts. Rafael Nadal won 24 matches on clay, which included the Barcelona Open, Monte Carlo Masters and the Rome Masters. The 24-match winning streak broke the previous record of Andre Agassi in the Open Era and also dethroned Thomas Muster as the ‘King of Clay’.

Those wins in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome put him in a great frame of mind heading into the French Open. When he stepped out at Roland Garros, the world witnessed the birth of a legend.

Winning the first of 100 in the French Open

Nadal’s first-ever match at the French Open was against Germany’s Lars Burgsmuller. The German was a decent player, having reached a career-high ranking of 65 in 2002.

Nadal did a brilliant job, dismantling Burgsmuller 6-1,7-6 (4), 6-1 in a match that signaled the arrival of a special talent. There is also a very interesting snippet to this match. The match against Burgsmuller was not played on Court Phillippe Chatrier. It was played on Court No.1. It would be the only time Nadal did not feature in the main court.

From that point on, Nadal showed that he was the best in the business. The Spaniard efficiently defeated Xavier Malisse, Richard Gasquet. He faced his first real Test in French veteran Sebastian Grosjean who managed to take a set off him. However, he prevailed and won the match to enter the quarterfinals. In that match, he beat compatriot David Ferrer in three sets. Federer awaited him now.

Rafael Nadal beats Federer and wins French Open

Federer and Nadal had already given a rousing testament to the rivalry that would redefine Tennis. Nadal had beaten Federer in their first encounter. In their next encounter, Nadal was two points away from a straight-sets win. But, Nadal botched it to lose to Federer in five sets in Miami.

Nadal and Federer managed to split the first two sets, with the Spaniard winning the first set 6-3. Federer bounced back to win the next set 6-4. However, Federer’s unforced errors mounted as the game progressed while Nadal was in fine form. Nadal won the next two sets 6-4,6-3 to enter the final.

In that match against Argentinian Mariano Puerta, Nadal lost the first set in a tie-breaker. Perhaps the nerves of a first final were playing on him. But, Nadal showed his warrior-like mentality and bounced back after the jolt. He won the next three sets 6-3,6-1 and 7-5 to win his first French Open.

The records tumble for Nadal

Nadal became the second male player, after Mats Wilander in 1982, to win the French Open on his first attempt. He was the first teenager to win a Grand Slam singles title since Pete Sampras won the 1990 US Open at age 19. The win against Burgsmuller and Puerta had laid the foundation for Nadal to achieve greatness in the French Open.

15 years on, Burgsmuller is a radiation specialist back home in Essen, Germany. But, Nadal has carved a niche for himself in Roland Garros. Nadal has 100 match wins at Roland Garros against just two defeats in 15 years. The two losses came to Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015.

Nadal has 13 French Open titles, which is the most by any player, male or female in the history of Tennis. Consider this, Pete Sampras won a total of 14 Grand Slams. Nadal has won one Grand Slam 13 times. His exploits at the French Open have made Nadal the second player after Federer to win 20 Grand Slams.

Nadal is the only player in history to have 100 wins in Roland Garros. In fact, out of his 87 ATP titles, 61 have come on clay highlighting that he is the Emperor of Clay Courts. The world might change. But, Nadal’s legacy at the French Open might never be equaled.

Sportslumo Desk

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