A year after their first duel, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met in the Miami Masters final. The young Spaniard led two sets to love and 4-1 in the third before losing ground and falling in a five-setter. Federer and Nadal were ready for another Masters 1000 duel a few weeks later in Monte Carlo, leading the upper half of the draw.
Rafa faced Gaston Gaudio in the quarter-final while Roger battled against the young Frenchman Richard Gasquet, hoping to score wins and set their duel. Nadal accomplished his part of the job in style, toppling the reigning Roland Garros champion Gaudio 6-3, 6-0 in 62 minutes and reaching the semi-final.
It was the first triumph for Nadal over Gaudio after three losses, dominating every segment and controlling the scoreboard to race over the finish line. Serving at 85%, Rafa lost eight points behind the initial shot. He challenged Gaston to repeat that in his games and stole 55% of the return points to convert four breaks from five opportunities.
Instead of Federer, Nadal’s semi-final opponent would be his coeval Gasquet. The young Frenchman ousted the Swiss 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 after fending off three match points in the deciding tie break! It was the first notable win for a qualifier ranked just outside the top-100.
Roger Federer wasted three match points against Richard Gasquet in Monte Carlo 2005.
He held his nerves and landed a perfect backhand down the line winner at 9-8 in the tie break to end Roger’s 25-match winning streak and set Nadal clash in a battle for the final.
Speaking about that match, Rafa was surprised to see Richard on the winning side, expecting another encounter against Roger. The Spaniard praised the Frenchman and his abilities, predicting a tough battle the next day. “Nobody thought Federer would lose, especially not against Richard.
Still, I have to say Richard has a lot of potentials. It cost him a bit of effort to make the next step, but now he is here, and I believe we will see more from him. He will constantly improve his ranking, winning 16 matches in a row and playing well.
It will be a tough encounter against him tomorrow. Also, it will be a nice battle against a rival my age,” Rafael Nadal said.