When Rafael Nadal made a name for himself in Monte Carlo at 16



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When Rafael Nadal made a name for himself in Monte Carlo at 16

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 a young 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. He almost cracked the top-100 with those points, and the entire tennis world could see his talent during his Masters 1000 debut in Monte Carlo a few weeks later.

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.

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, a teenager faced the reigning Roland Garros champion, Albert Costa.

Rafael Nadal scored two victories in the 2003 Monte Carlo Masters at 16.

Showing no sign of fear, Rafa earned a 7-5, 6-3 victory in two hours to secure the first top-10 victory and crack the top-100.

Nadal fended off 14 out of 17 break chances while showing massive mental strength, fighting for every point and emerging at the top after a grueling battle and five breaks on his tally. Rafa won the first set with a late break in the 12th game when Costa sprayed a forehand error.

The youngster moved in front at 4-3 in set number two and emerged at the top with a hold at love in the next game for the first notable victory. "I have great memories from Monte Carlo. It was my first notable tournament, and I played well, qualifying for the main draw and beating Karol Kucera and Albert Costa.

I will never forget that, but I have to improve and move further from that third round. Before Monte Carlo 2003, I played in two Challenger finals, winning the title in Barletta and heading to Monte Carlo with confidence. I won two matches there and proved that I could compete against the rivals from the ATP Tour," Rafael Nadal said.