Rafael Nadal, who turns 34 on Wednesday, June 3, won his first Grand Slam semi-final by defeating top seed Roger Federer to celebrate his 19th birthday exactly 15 years ago.
As world No.2 Nadal celebrates his 34th birthday, we look back at his 2005 French Open semi-final victory, when he beat Federer en route the first of his 19th Grand Slam titles.
The rivalry between Nadal and Federer is a tennis folklore now and they are fondly referred to as Fedal. Not only are they great rivals on the court but they share a beautiful friendship off court. And all of this started with a rather bitter match in the dirt of Paris on June 3, 2005.
Nadal won the first set of the semi-final before Federer took the second. Nadal then broke Federer in the third and took it. Federer had a 3-1 lead in the fourth set only for Nadal to level up and win the last five games to make his first Grand Slam final.
The match had everything that a Fedal match has had over the years.
From grinding rallies to Federer's net game being matched by Nadal's court coverage, the match was a peek into the intense rivalry and stunning matches that Fedal would offer for the years to come.
A baby-faced Nadal was playing his first French Open after having to withdraw in the previous two years due to injuries but that didn't show at all in the confidence he displayed against the Swiss.
Typically, Nadal's fiery forehand was troubling Federer's silky backhand. Federer admitted years later that he learnt how to attack from his backhand in order to match the heavy top spin of the left-handed Nadal.
Nadal is known for his immense fighting ability and the passion was there for all to see, especially towards the end in the crucial moments when Federer seemed to have lost pace.
When Nadal started going hammer and tongs in the fourth set, Federer struggled to control the heaviness of Nadal's forehand and was also troubled by the odd bounce of the clay court.
In the end, Nadal made his first French Open final, which he would go on to win, and began his trademark celebration of lying on the court with his back to the clay.
Exactly 15 years later, we can now look back at innumerous iconic moments that the Fedal rivalry has bestowed the world of tennis with. Till today, their their all-time greatest match is said to be the 2008 Wimbledon final, where Nadal upset the Swiss to win his first of the two titles in London.