It was October 23 2005 at Casa de Campo, exactly one decade ago. In his first Mutua Madrid Open final, Rafael Nadal was caught off-guard by Ivan Ljubicic, who quickly took a lead of two sets to love over the Spaniard, threatening to end his dream of becoming champion. Despite being against the ropes, and with no room at all to manoeuvre, Nadal began an impossible comeback, spurred on by the support of the fans and convinced that victory was not impossible thanks to his indomitable character. And so, after more than 4 hours of play, the Mallorcan eventually won 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 to lift his first trophy at home, cheered on by the more than 10,000-strong crowd who turned out to witness an exhibition of incredible belief. It was, without a doubt, one of the best matches in the history of the tournament and one of the most exciting matches in recent history.
“It is one of the best memories I have of this tournament”, recognised the 14-time Grand Slam champion, who with the win sealed an 11-title season and the fourth Masters Series in his career. “It is true that it was played at a different venue and on an indoor court in October, practically nothing like today. The final was even the best of five sets”, continued Nadal, who finished 2005 as the world number 2. “I remember that largely because of the support from the public I was able to turn the match around and eventually win a final in which I was losing two love”.
The Director of the Mutua Madrid Open, Manolo Santana, remembers the Spaniard’s first victory here with affection. “I will never ever forget that match. We knew what Rafa was capable of, but the final against Ljubicic showed the kind of player he is. Based on grit and determination, and with a high standard of tennis he managed to turn around a match that was all but lost. I remember Ljubicic had a big serve and was playing very aggressively, but Rafa reacted in style and took the victory. We really are lucky to have seen the great matches Rafa has had in Madrid and hopefully there are many more to come”.
After coming back against Ljubicic in the 2005 final in a match that he will never forget, Nadal won the Mutua Madrid Open three more times (2010, 2013 and 2014), making him the most successful player in Madrid, with four titles. In 2016, the Mallorcan will be looking to extend his record in the Caja Mágica with another new trophy.