Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I got bageled and felt less nervous after'

“I got bagels and was less nervous afterwards”

After notable progress in 2003, Rafael Nadal was ready for an even stronger attack the following season. The 17-year-old reached the first ATP Finals in Auckland earlier in the 2004 season and advanced to the third round of the Australian Open.

Rafa stunned world No. 1 Roger Federer in Miami in straight sets and made a name for himself. The young Spaniard marched towards the top 30 before suffering a left ankle injury against Richard Gasquet in Estoril that halted his progress.

Nadal missed Roland Garros and Wimbledon and returned in Bastad in July. After quarter-final runs in Sweden and Stuttgart, Rafa suffered early losses in Canada and Cincinnati, returning to Europe to compete in a small ATP 250 event in Sopot on clay.

Rafael Nadal was sidelined for a few months in 2004 due to injury.

The youngster went all the way against rivals from outside the top-80 to lift the first ATP crown. Nadal became the youngest ATP champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998, taking a well-deserved break and returning at the US Open.

Rafa fell the Swiss Ivo Heuberger in five sets in New York in the first round. A teenager struggled in sets three and four before claiming victory in the decider to clash with world No. 1. 2 and defending champion Andy Roddick.

One of the title favorites proved too strong for the Spaniard, scoring a dominant 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 36 minutes. Despite serving 82%, Nadal couldn’t do anything with his first shot. He gave away seven serves as his elbow prevented him from playing at his usual level at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

After the match, Nadal praised his opponent, stating that he couldn’t beat him without delivering his A-game, which wasn’t the case. Rafa admitted he felt more relaxed after a bagel in the opening set and fought better in sets two and three but didn’t extend the clash.

“I didn’t feel like I could do my best today; I had problems with my elbow. It’s not easy against someone like Roddick without doing your best. I didn’t do my best today and you can’t Andy beat Roddick without showing your A-game.

After the bagel of that opening set, I wasn’t that nervous in the second set. I was 30-0 in the first game of the encounter before I broke, which is never easy against such a great server. There is a difference between the rivals I played against in Sopot and Andy Roddick; There were good players, but they weren’t in the top 50.

Also, I won this event on clay. After that injury in April, I’ve only played at a high level two or three times, like in Stuttgart and Bastad,” said Rafael Nadal.

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