Rafael Nadal’s victory in the French Open Grand Slam tournament at the age of 19 made him an instant worldwide star. Almost 60 per cent of the Spanish TV viewing audience watched Nadal’s victory over Mariano Puerta in the men’s singles in Paris – the fifth most watched sports event in Spanish history.
En route to the final, Nadal beat World No 1 Roger Federer in the semi-finals on his 19th birthday. He was the first player since Mats Wilander in 1982 to win the tournament at his first attempt and the first teenager to win a Grand Slam event since Pete Sampras won the 1990 US Open at age 19.
It was the highlight of a wonderful year in which the Spaniard also won ten other events – in Costa Do Sauipe Brazil, Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Bastad, Stuttgart, Montreal, Beijing and Montreal. During the year he had a 44-2 match record on clay and a 79-10 record on all surfaces. He also won 24 consecutive matches during early 2005, the longest winning streak of any teenager in the Open Era, topping Andre Agassi's run of 23 matches in 1988.
A left-hander with a booming forehand, Nadal is known as a clay-court specialist. His aggressive style, flowing hair and muscular build have made him a consistent favourite with the fans. Nadal began playing tennis at the age of five and at the age of ten it became clear he had a future in the sport. His Uncle Toni Nadal became his coach and he began serious training.