Rafael Nadal clinched his first ATP win on 30 April, 2002, and 20 years later he is still winning matches on the ATP Tour. In the April of 2022, a 15-year-old Nadal made his ATP debut alongside his childhood friend Tomeu Salva.
In his first-ever ATP match, Nadal defeated Ramon Delgado 6-2 3-6 7-5 in the Mallorca first round. Salva was given a qualifying wildcard for Mallorca but failed to reach the main draw after losing in the qualifying first round.
However, Salva still made his ATP main draw debut in Mallorca as he and Nadal were given a doubles wildcard. Salva and Nadal didn't make it far in their doubles opener as they suffered a 6-2 6-2 loss in their opener. 20 years later, Salva recalls how evident it was that Nadal was a special player.
Salva admitted he and Nadal at first were excited, but as the tournament was approaching, they started to feel pressure.
Salva: Nadal is a genius
“At the end of the day, Nadal is a genius, and geniuses always surprise.
The difference that Rafa made with the others at the time was already noticeable," Salva said, per We Love Tennis.. “In terms of tennis, he was already above the rest of the players. And then the most striking difference was the mental difference.
He already had such a competitive mentality, so conquering, so mature on the court. The physical side was also a difference. But the biggest difference was mental," Salva told the ATP Tour en Espanol website. Meanwhile, Nadal is set to kick off his clay season next week in Madrid.
Nadal missed the beginning of the clay season as a rib stress fracture forced him to skip Monte Carlo and Barcelona. "Despite only just arriving with preparation and it being difficult, I really want to play and play at home since the opportunities are few," Nadal tweeted this week. "I will try to do it in the best possible way. See you in Madrid”.