16-year-old rising star Rafael Nadal was ready to fight in 2003 after earning many places on the ATP ranking list the year before. Rafa surpassed more than 500 rivals on the ATP list at such a young age and wished for more during the new campaign in 2003.
The Manacor native lost three finals earlier in the year before winning his first Challenger crown in the last week of March at Barletta, nearly breaking the top-100 with those points. A couple of weeks later, the entire tennis world was able to witness the talent and desire of the young Spaniard in Monte Carlo.
Nadal qualified for his first Masters 1000 tournament on clay and entered the second ATP event of his career after Manacor last spring. Making an impressive debut at the premium ATP level, Rafa dispatched world no. 49, Karol Kucera, 6-1, 6-2 in a quick 63 minutes.
The 16-year-old gave away 12 points in eight service games and fended off all three break chances to keep the pressure on the Slovak. Dominating all segments and having the upper hand from start to finish, Rafa claimed 56% of the return points and delivered four breaks from six chances to race to the second ATP victory.
In the second round, Nadal would take on reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa, hoping to put his best foot forward against a much higher-ranked opponent he met in Barcelona a couple of years earlier. “I have known Carlos Moyá for a long time, we know each other quite well.
I don't know Albert Costa very well as I don't go to Barcelona much. Still, I went there once with Moyá, and I had the opportunity to meet him."
Nadal is playing his 17th Australian Open this year
Rafael Nadal recently heaped praise on Spanish teen prodigy Carlos Alcaraz, who has been making giant strides on the men's tour over the last year.
“Does he have a chance of winning here? Yes, what can I say? Why not?" Nadal said to the ATP. "He’s a young player that is clearly on the up and we’ll see what happens. At the moment, everything is unpredictable and he’s a player with huge potential."
The 20-time Slam champion then credited Alcaraz's talent and work ethic for his recent success. “At the end of the day, when you have all that potential and you’re a hard worker too, it’s unlikely things will go badly for you.
You would expect him to have more chances to fight for big things as each tournament goes by,” the Spaniard said. Carlos Alcaraz's coach Juan Carlos Ferrero said he agreed with Nadal's assessment of the 18-year-old Spaniard.
“Of course, Rafa’s words are wonderful and we’re grateful for them. I really agree with what he said. He has potential. Now we just need to see when he fulfills it at an important tournament like this one”.