Rafael Nadal started his incredible Roland Garros journey 17 years ago

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Rafael Nadal started his incredible Roland Garros journey 17 years ago

Rafael Nadal will start his 18th Roland Garros campaign on the same day when he claimed the first victory in Paris 17 years ago! With 13 titles and 105 wins from 108 encounters, Rafa is the most decorated player at a single Major in tennis history.

The Spaniard made a name for himself in 2003 at 16, reaching the third round at the Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Hamburg and preparing for the Parisian debut. Still, the youngster had to skip Roland Garros due to an injury, with a similar outcome a year later.

Nadal needed just over two years (he had a couple of injuries) to move from outside the top-100 into the top-5. He became a multiple Masters 1000 champion and a contender for Major trophies before turning 19. In 2005, Rafa had won two titles on clay before reaching the final in Miami, standing two points away from beating world no.

1 Roger Federer in straight sets and losing after a thriller. In Monte Carlo, Nadal toppled the defending champion Guillermo Coria to lift the trophy and become the second-youngest Masters 1000 champion after Michael Chang.

Rafa was the player to beat in Barcelona and headed to Rome as the favorite. He ousted Roger Federer in one of the best matches of all time for the second Masters 1000 crown, entering the top-5 and preparing for his first Roland Garros.

The pressure was on the youngster, as he led the field despite never competing in Paris again. After those triumphs in Monte Carlo and Rome, Nadal was ready to embrace the best-of-five encounters and fight for the title. He defeated David Ferrer, Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta to become the champion in his first appearance and the last teenager with a Major crown.

Nadal kicked off his glorious Roland Garros journey with a 6-1, 7-6, 6-1 victory over Lars Burgsmuller in an hour and 45 minutes. It was a strong debut for an 18-year-old in front of the Parisian crowd, dropping 16 points in 14 service games and never facing a break point to mount the pressure on the other side of the net.

Rafael Nadal scored his first Roland Garros victory over Lars Burgsmuller in 2005.

World no. 96 could not match that pace behind the initial shot, staying in touch in set number two but getting broken four times in sets one and three to propel the youngster over the finish line.

Rafa completed his first game in Paris with a forehand crosscourt winner and earned a break in game four to forge the advantage. He cemented it with an ace down the T line in the next one for 4-1. Burgsmuller suffered another break in game six and allowed Nadal to clinch the opener with a service winner a few minutes later after 31 minutes.

The German found his shots in set number two, playing aggressive tennis and keeping his service games safe until the tie break. The Spaniard stayed calm and claimed it 7-4 to extend his lead and gather an even more significant boost ahead of set number three.

Rafa forced Lars' error in the second game thanks to a deep return and landed a backhand down the line winner to move 3-0 up and closer to the finish line. The German sprayed another backhand error in the fourth game to give serve away, drawing further away from the positive score and allowing the Spaniard to serve for the win at 5-1.

Eager to seal the deal before heavy rain, Nadal fired three winners in that seventh game to emerge at the top, introducing himself to the crowd in Paris and forging a path towards the first Roland Garros crown.