Fifteen years on, how maiden Monte Carlo win sparked Nadal breakthrough

PARIS (AFP) – Rafael Nadal celebrated the 15th anniversary of his first Monte Carlo Masters title yesterday, a victory which sparked a breakthrough season, a maiden Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros and set the Spaniard on the road to becoming one of the sport’s greatest players.

Nadal was just 18 when he beat Guillermo Coria in the 2005 Monte Carlo final.

Two years earlier, he had offered tennis a glimpse of the future when, at 16, he stunned French Open champion Albert Costa on the famous red clay on the shores of the Mediterranean.

His 2005 triumph was one of 11 titles Nadal captured that year – eight of them on clay at Costa do Sauipe, Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, the French Open, Bastad and Stuttgart.

He also proved he was no slow-court bully, ending the year with hard court victories in Canada, Beijing and Madrid.

File photo shows Spain’s Rafael Nadal. PHOTO: AP

That success was also reflected in the rankings.

At the end of 2004, he was at 51; fast forward 12 months and he was the world number two.

Among his 85-trophy career haul, 11 have come in Monte Carlo including a record eight in a row from 2005-2012 and three more between 2016-2018. In 76 matches at the event, he has lost just five times.

Despite his maiden victory in Monte Carlo, however, Nadal wasn’t sounding confident about his chances at Roland Garros later that season.

“No, no, no. I am not favourite, no. It’s my first Roland Garros,” the teenager told reporters in faltering English.