ATP Finals Flashback: Rafael Nadal wins on his debut

Rafael Nadal introduced himself to the global tennis world in 2005. A teenager conquered 11 ATP titles and lifted a Major crown and four Masters 1000 shields. Rafa closed the season in the top-2 as the first teenager after Boris Becker in 1986.

He earned a place at the ATP Finals in Shanghai but withdrew due to a left foot injury. A year later, Nadal continued to be the Tour’s second-strongest link behind Roger Federer. The Spaniard claimed five ATP finals, defending the Roland Garros crown and advancing to his first Wimbledon title match.

Spending the entire season ranked 2nd, Rafa was ready to make his ATP Finals debut in China. He faced James Blake in the opening match. The American had a great season and proved too tough to handle for Rafa on an indoor court, beating world no.

2 6-4, 7-6. With no room for errors, the 20-year-old faced his compatriot Tommy Robredo in the second match, seeking a win that would keep him in the semi-final chase. Nadal defeated Robredo 7-6, 6-2 in an hour and 42 minutes to secure his first ATP Finals victory and the 58th of the season.

Robredo played on a high level at the Masters 1000 series that year. He claimed the Hamburg Masters title and earned enough points to secure the ATP Finals berth despite scoring only ten victories at Majors. Tommy gave his best against Rafa in the opening set.

He lost it in the tie break and faded from the court in the second to carry his young compatriot toward the finish line. It was the fourth victory for Nadal over Robredo in as many matches, fending off five out of six break chances and earning three breaks to wrap up the win in straight sets.

Rafael Nadal scored his first ATP Finals win over Tommy Robredo in Shanghai 2006.

Rafa saved a break point in the encounter’s second game with a forehand winner to avoid an early setback. Tommy grabbed a break in game six following a deep return that the young Spaniard failed to control.

Rafa broke back at 15 in the next one to erase the deficit and held with a lob winner to level the score at 4-4. Robredo survived the ninth game and held at love with a forehand winner to move 6-5 up, forcing Nadal to serve to stay in the set.

The youngster did that in style with a forehand crosscourt winner. He gathered a boost and opened a 4-0 gap in the tie break with a backhand down the line winner. Nadal clinched the set after an incredible forehand down the line winner at 6-2 and built momentum ahead of the second set.

Rafa carried it into the second set and broke Tommy in game two for a set and a break advantage. Returning at 5-2, Nadal grabbed another break to move over the top and celebrate his first ATP Finals triumph.

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