In 2005, 19-year-old Rafael Nadal became the greatest teenager since the days of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Boris Becker. Furthermore, the Spaniard established himself as the second strongest link on the Tour behind Roger Federer.
Nadal followed Federer with 11 ATP titles that year, including Roland Garros and four Masters 1000 crowns. The Spaniard earned enough points to finish the season well ahead of Andy Roddick and others, launching the ultimate quest for world No. 1. Nadal strove to improve his game on hard and grass in the following two seasons, closing the gap on the Swiss, who ranked above him between 2004 and 2007. After four brilliant years that brought him impressive records, Roger began to lower the beat in 2008.
He had to leave the ATP throne on August 18, when Rafa overtook him and conquered the tennis world at the age of 22. The Spaniard had to wait until the clay court season to win the first title of that year, after losing in the finals in Chennai and Miami and in the semifinals of the Australian Open and Indian Wells.
As usual, nobody could stop Rafa in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Hamburg and Roland Garros. In Paris he got his fourth consecutive title and increased the pressure on Roger. Nadal’s game on grass was already very high after two Wimbledon finals in the previous years.
He went one step further on the fastest surface in 2008 to topple Novak Djokovic at Queen’s and Roger Federer in that memorable Wimbledon final to move to No. 1. No one could stop Rafa that summer, and he conquered Toronto for his 29th straight victory.
Nadal became the world number 1 when Federer suffered an unexpected loss to Ivo Karlovic in the third round.
Ben Shelton on his passion for Federer
American teenager Ben Shelton is the latest player to speak about his admiration for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“I definitely looked up to Federer. Nadal is the clear choice because I’m a lefty, as well. I liked kind of the classiness of Fed, the aura around him and the way he carries himself on court in victory and defeat,” he said.
“He was kind of like a good role model on the court, off the court, how he handled the press, just a class act. I definitely enjoyed watching him play tennis growing up,” he added. “I feel great definitely in [an] exciting atmosphere out there. I’m glad to be moving on and happy to be here, for sure,” he said.