Rafael Nadal played his first Major tournament at Wimbledon 2003, in his first event after turning 17. A super talented Spaniard was the semi-finalist at the All England Club in the junior event a year ago. He used that experience for a professional debut on the fastest surface against Mario Ancic, beating the Croat and racing past Lee Childs in the second round to become the youngest player in the last 32 since Boris Becker in 1985!
Improving his game regularly, Nadal would become a title contender at the All England Club within three years, advancing into the first Wimbledon final in 2006. Winning the second Roland Garros crown a few weeks earlier, Nadal set eyes on the "Channel Slam," trying to become the first player to secure it after Bjorn Borg in the early 80s.
Eager to bounce back after the Parisian loss, the defending Wimbledon champion Roger Federer toppled the Spaniard 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in just under three hours in the title clash for his 48th straight victory on grass. The Swiss had more efficient numbers on both the first and second serve, giving serve away twice and breaking the Spaniard six times to seal the deal and write the record books.
Federer had a clear advantage in the shortest rallies and forced Rafa's 50 errors to cross the finish line first and lift the trophy. The more experienced player made a marvelous start, storming over Nadal to deliver a bagel in 24 minutes!
Rafael Nadal lost his first Wimbledon final to Roger Federer in four sets.
Recovering in set number two, Nadal earned a break and served for it at 5-4, only to get broken at 15. Federer won the tie break 7-5 to gain a massive boost, looking good to seal the deal in straight sets and extend his run.
Nadal made sure to end Roger's streak of 34 consecutive sets won at Wimbledon after taking the third in the tie break before Federer claimed the fourth to celebrate the title. "It was a time when reaching a Wimbledon final was an achievement for me.
I fought in the title match and enjoyed it, but perhaps without the mind of believing that I could win. The simple fact of reaching the final was already an achievement for me; playing Roger Federer on grass made it extra tough.
I made a slow start, unable to find the rhythm; after that, I felt better on the court, feeling I could compete with Roger. However, I was not entirely convinced that I could beat him. At that time, he was better than me, and that made me work even harder to reach that level and challenge him in the years to come," Rafael Nadal said.