Rafael Nadal qualified for his first Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo 2003, still 16 years old. The young Spaniard played at a high level in Challengers in the first three months of the season, and was ready to put his ATP-level skills to the test on his beloved clay.
Nadal defeated Karol Kucera in the first round for his first Masters 1000 victory and gained momentum before a more challenging clash. In the second round, the youngster defeated reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours, earning the first win in the top 10 and drawing the attention of the entire tennis world.
The less experienced Spaniard fended off 14 of 17 break opportunities and fought for every point to emerge on top after a grueling battle, winning five breaks to book a spot in the last 16 and cement his top 100 status. Rafa won the first set with a late break in game 12 when Costa added a forehand error, advanced 4-3 in set number two and sealed the deal with his serve in the next game for one of his most notable victories before 2005.
"It was another excellent match for me. At first, it was a little normal, as I was showing too much respect and was afraid of the opponent on the other side of the net. Afterwards, I started to play better and better because he did not play at his usual level.
I did my best to claim victory. He was very eager to compete, while he was a bit scared after facing a younger opponent."
Nadal failed to accomplish a Grand Slam title in 2021
Rafael Nadal was officially given the title "adopted son" by the city council of Sant Llorenc des Cardessar, a Mallorcan municipality, in a plenary session on Wednesday.
Speaking at the session, Nadal said he felt honored to receive such a distinction, but at the same time expressed his sadness that it came as a result of such a devastating sequence of incidents. "I am very grateful and I feel great satisfaction for this recognition, but I regret that it was caused by a disaster where lives were lost," Nadal was quoted as saying by MARCA.
"The truth is that it saddens me to remember those days and I wish it had never happened." During the course of the session, Rafael Nadal also referenced the recent tragedy in La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands.
Eruptions from the Cumbre Vieja volcano caused devastation in the region, with hundreds of residents evacuated from their homes as large amounts of lava poured into the streets. "Between all of us we have to help in the tragedy of La Palma," Nadal said.