Sixteen years ago, 19-year-old Rafael Nadal won the fourth Masters 1000 title and eleventh overall in the historic season that made him No. 2 behind Roger Federer! The Spaniard won 79 matches and became the main force on clay with eight ATP titles on his beloved surface, including two Masters 1000s and a Major crown at Roland Garros.
Rafa claimed titles in Canada, Beijing and Madrid on a hard court to close out a great year despite skipping Paris and the Masters Cup due to a left foot injury. Nadal’s last meeting of the season was one of the most exciting he played in his early years on the Tour.
Led by the home crowd at the Madrid Masters, Rafa came from the brink of defeat to defeat Ivan Ljubicic 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and 53 minutes, in one of the longest Masters 1000 finals ever! Madrid was already the fourth Masters 1000 crown for the young Spaniard and the only one he won on a hard covered surface, never winning another with a roof over his head.
Ljubicic arrived in the Spanish capital in great spirit, winning Metz and Vienna in the previous two weeks and winning 16 matches in a row before the Nadal clash! The Croatian built two sets to love the lead, took nine more points than the youngster and created 13 break opportunities.
Still, that wasn’t enough to cross the finish line first and claim the best career title from him after coming up short in the decisive tiebreaker by a heartbreaking loss. Nadal played well throughout the week despite knee tendonitis, beating Victor Hanescu, Tommy Robredo, Radek Stepanek and Robby Ginepri in straight sets to reach the final.
He had to survive more than 80 Ljubicic winners to emerge as a winner, passing all the challenges to lift the trophy in front of the partisan crowd. The Croatian had 56 winners and hit more than 40 from his forehand, backhand and volley to keep the points on his racket and dominate sets one and two.
Nadal will play the Australian Open 2022
Rafael Nadal stated that a healthy combination of doubt and confidence is the best way to get work done. “Yeah, because doubts let you work the proper way, I think. Because when you have doubts, you always work with the goal that you never think it’s enough.
‘It can be better, it can be better…’ but at the same time, if you have the confidence that works in the proper way, you will be able to be back. Then, you are back or not… you never know.” Arrogance and excessive self-confidence can help people to a certain extent, said Nadal.
But he also argued that it doesn’t work in the long-run and may end up affecting the athlete negatively. “That’s why it’s been hard work during my entire tennis career. I think being, sometimes, arrogant and very self-confident can help you for a while, but for the longer term, if that, in some way doesn’t give you the chance to work the proper way, with the goal to improve, it can be a negative thing.”