Browsing through VamosBrigade this afternoon, I came across a photograph linked by mamasue, of an 18-year-old Rafa at the Australian Open back in 2005.
These are images before even my time as a fan, having fallen out of love with tennis and barely even giving it a look-in at that point. It was from his 5-setter against Lleyton Hewitt, which co-incidentially, one of our forum members (Womble) mentioned having actually seen back then. No wonder she's a Rafa fan ...
Rafa lost the match 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 2-6 - a tie-breaker away from victory.
I have to say it's a bit bitter sweet looking at these pictures today. All the talk is of the Australian Open draw ... but Rafa's not there, and once again, we don't feel part of it. And to be honest, I'm not sure if it's getting easier or harder, not seeing him compete at major competitions.
Notwithstanding that, his image, persona and sheer charisma continue to shine through, and when you look at this young man and consider the power of his play against the man who turned out to be a finalist that year ... no wonder he turned the tennis world upside down. And no wonder he generated the kind of reaction he did ... from those who love him, and from those who continue to hate.
As I said, it's bitter sweet actually seeing these images, but I'm glad I have as I'm looking at them for the first time.
They were taken by Clive Brunskill (who else?) and Adam Pretty, for Getty Images Sport, and I just think they capture marvellously, the young, raw Rafa in all his glory.
I hope you too, enjoy ...