Making an ATP debut at home in Mallorca in 2002, the 15-year-old Rafael Nadal experienced the magic of the top-tie professional level. A teenager became one of the youngest players with an ATP victory, leaving his junior duties behind and feeling confident in his abilities against much older and more experienced rivals.
Rafa scored 19 Challenger wins in the first three months of 2003 to crack the top-150 and notched five ATP triumphs in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Hamburg in the upcoming weeks to make a name for himself at 16. Nadal had to pass what could have been an impressive first appearance at Roland Garros due to an elbow injury, making a Major debut at Wimbledon that June without playing any event on grass.
Nadal competed at Wimbledon on the junior level in 2002 and reached the semi-final to gather at least some experience and confidence. In his first Major event, Rafa ousted Mario Ancic and Lee Childs to become one of the youngest players in the Wimbledon third round in the Open era.
Rafael Nadal spoke about improvements on grass that led him towards Wimbledon crowns.
Skipping Wimbledon in 2004 due to an injury, Rafa suffered an early loss to Gilles Muller a year later, working on his game and delivering the necessary updates to become a contender on the fastest surface.
In 2006, Nadal survived a thrilling contest against Robert Kendrick in the second round after battling from two sets to love down, raising his level in the upcoming encounters to advance into the final. Rafa won a set against the defending champion Roger Federer, but that was all he could do against the defending champion.
The Spaniard secured another Wimbledon final in 2007, making a quick transition from clay after winning Roland Garros and hoping to add the "Channel Slam" to his tally. Federer was too strong again, beating Nadal in five sets to claim the fifth consecutive Wimbledon crown.
Determined to transform his improved abilities on the fastest surface into trophies, Nadal would win both the Queen's and Wimbledon in 2008. Thus, Rafa made a big step on his path towards the greatest players of all time and proved wrong those who questioned his grass-court game.
Between 2006-2011, Nadal was the finalist in five out of six Wimbledon events, skipping the event in 2009 due to an injury. "It is true that my style of play and my way of understanding tennis had led many people to believe that my game would never be suitable for this surface.
However, both my team and I noticed that I could play well on grass. In the end, confidence and positivity helped me convincing myself that I could play on every surface, including the most extreme one. I made the semi-final at Wimbledon as a junior and reached the third round on professional debut," Rafael Nadal said.