The 16-year-old rising star Rafael Nadal was ready to rumble in 2003 after gaining many places on the ATP ranking list in the previous year. Rafa passed over 500 rivals on the ATP list at such an early age and wished for more during the new campaign in 2003.
The Manacor native lost three finals at the beginning of the year before winning the first Challenger crown in the last week of March in Barletta, almost cracking the top-100 with those points. A couple of weeks later, the entire tennis world could witness the young Spaniard's talent and desire in Monte Carlo.
Nadal qualified for his first Masters 1000 tournament on beloved clay and entered his career's second ATP event after Manacor last spring. Making an impressive debut on the premium ATP level, Rafa dispatched world no. 49 Karol Kucera 6-1, 6-2 in swift 63 minutes.
Rafael Nadal was ready to challenge the Roland Garros champion in 2003.
The 16-year-old gave away 12 points in eight service games and defended all three break chances to keep the pressure on the Slovak. Dominating every segment and having the upper hand from start to finish, Rafa claimed 56% of the return points and delivered four breaks from six opportunities to race towards the second ATP win.
In the second round, Nadal would face the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa, hoping to give his best against a much better-ranked opponent whom he met in Barcelona a couple of years earlier. "I have been knowing Carlos Moya for a long time; we know each other pretty well.
I do not know Albert Costa that well since I do not go to Barcelona often. Still, I went there once with Moya, and I had a chance to meet him. Nothing comes easy, and I do not think about higher ranking positions; there are many good players out there.
I'm still trying with school, although it is getting harder and harder since I'm never home. I'm very eager to meet Albert Costa as he won Roland Garros; it should be a great test for me. I will probably lose, but I'm ready to give my best.
I have never asked for an autograph, but if I have to pick the favorite player, that's Carlos Moya. I'm very grateful to him for saying such nice things about me, but I think other players play well at my age as well," Rafael Nadal said.