Paul Rouget: published on Wednesday April 14, 2021 at 9:12 p.m.
In search of a 12th coronation on the Rock, Rafael Nadal won his first Monegasque title in 2005, when he was only 18 years old. And it was in Monte-Carlo that the legend of the Mallorcan began to be written, a few weeks before his first triumph at Roland-Garros.
If he is the king of Roland-Garros, Rafael Nadal, titled 13 times Porte d’Auteuil, also reigns in Monaco, where he has won 11 times, again a record, since his debut on the Monegasque clay in 2003. Then aged 16, he had achieved the first feat of his career in the second round. 109th in the world, the Spaniard, resulting from the qualifications, had first swept the Slovak Karol Kucera (6-1, 6-2), before facing his compatriot Albert Costa, winner of the French Open the previous year and who ranked 7th in the world.
Not enough to intimidate the young Mallorcan, who fell in two sets from his elder (7-5, 6-3), but who would then stop at the stage of the knockout stages against Guillermo Coria. The Argentinian, crowned to Roland a year later, dominated the cheeky youngster in straight sets, not without trembling in the first act (7-6, 6-2). But Nadal had made an appointment. And Coria was going to have a front row seat to witness the real emergence of this extraordinary champion, and his first triumph in a major tournament two years later.
The warning to Federer
Absent in 2004, he landed on the Rock in 2005 with three titles, all gleaned on clay, in Sopot, Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco, and after becoming in December the youngest winner in Davis Cup history. Ten days before participating in the Monegasque event for the second time, he had reached the final of the Masters Series in Miami, then called Key Biscayne, and even led two sets to nothing against world number one Roger Federer, whom he had. pushed to the tie-break in the third set before finally losing.
A serious warning for the one who was to become his biggest rival … But it is therefore in Monaco that Nadal has definitely revealed himself to the world, and not only because of his style (capri pants-tank top-bandana) or of his tocs. He crossed the first four laps without batting an eyelid, dismissing in the opening another tennis hope: Gaël Monfils (6-3, 6-2). He was not going to encounter more difficulties against the Belgians Xavier Malisse (6-0, 6-3) and Olivier Rochus (6-1, 6-2).
Gaudio did not weigh heavily
But he was expected at the turn in the quarterfinals. Because it is Gaston Gaudio, winner of Roland-Garros against his compatriot Coria the previous spring, who stood in front of him. Except that the Argentine, sixth player in the world, was not going to weigh very heavily against the “bull of Manacor”, who also dispatched him in two small sets (6-3, 6-0). And it is finally in the last four that Nadal will have suffered the most during this tournament in Monte-Carlo 2005.
It is an old acquaintance that he finds again, since he is opposed in a duel of prodigies to Richard Gasquet, who had beaten him in the quarterfinals of the Petits As in 1999. Gasquet will win the unofficial world championship of 12 -14 years old, before Nadal was crowned the following year. Six years later, two young wolves with sharp teeth clash. And the Biterrois has just accomplished his first feat by leaving Federer, world number one and who has not lost a match since the summer of 2004.
Gasquet: “I knew what he was going to be good very quickly”
After a fierce duel, it was the Spaniard who won in three sets (6-7, 6-4, 6-3), winning the second of his 16 wins against Gasquet, against whom he has never lost a game on the circuit. “There was something between us, I knew him very well before he got a lot stronger. In this game there was a way to do something. I knew I could beat him. I regret it a bit,” “Richie” told Ouest-France last year, adding: “I knew what he was going to be good very quickly. I knew the mind he had.”
Mental, it also took Nadal in the final, for his reunion with Coria. His lift was going to hamper the Argentine a lot, who went completely through in the first two sets. As in Florida, where he led 4-1 in the third set before collapsing, he was totally dominated in this third act, but ended up bending an annoyed Coria (6-3, 6-1, 0-6 , 7-5). The first great coronation of Nadal, who would then go on to win in Barcelona and then in Rome, before his first title at Roland Garros a few weeks later. The legend was on …