17-year-old Rafael Nadal explains how he chose tennis over football

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17-year-old Rafael Nadal explains how he chose tennis over football

The 20-time Major winner Rafael Nadal kicked off the new season with the ATP 250 title in Melbourne and the first-round Australian Open victory. Thus, Nadal secured at least one Major victory for the 20th consecutive season, keeping his desire after all the setbacks and still seeking high goals at nearly 36.

With the Barcelona player Miguel Angel and tennis lover Toni as his uncles, Rafa could try both sports and show his skills on the green and red court. At 12, the Manacor native decided to pick tennis as his primary sport, working with Toni and becoming one of the greatest players of all time in the next two decades.

Skipping almost the entire junior career and focusing on professional events, Nadal kicked off the 2003 season from just outside the top-200. The 16-year-old reached three Challenger finals in the first three months before winning the first title in Barletta.

With momentum on his side, the youngster headed to Monte Carlo and defeated the Roland Garros champion Albert Costa en route to the third round before repeating that in Hamburg in May. Struggling with an elbow injury, the youngster missed Roland Garros and pre-Wimbledon events and returned at the All England Club for his first Major appearance a few weeks after turning 17.

Rafa beat another promising youngster Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 after three hours and four minutes in his first Major match.

Rafael Nadal explained how he picked tennis over football.

Thus, the Spaniard became the third-youngest player with a victory in the cathedral of tennis after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander.

Both competitors had their chances on the return, and Nadal fended off 11 out of 14 to limit the damage. Rafa delivered five breaks and moved over the top for a milestone triumph over a player who defeated Roger Federer in the first round a year earlier.

Asked about his uncles, Rafa explained that Miguel Angel played for Barcelona in the 90s when the entire family cheered for them. Nadal admitted they are the Real Madrid supporters, going back to their favorite club once Miguel Angel left Barcelona in 1999 and returned to the local club of Mallorca.

"I picked tennis over football at 12 because I played it better. When my uncle played for Barcelona, the family was cheering for them. Before that, we were all supporting Real Madrid. Once my uncle left Barcelona, we were Real Madrid fans again," Rafael Nadal said.