Nineteen years after making his Wimbledon debut, Rafael Nadal is still in contention for the third All England Club title. Rafa played his first Major event at Wimbledon 2003, starting the list around the 200th spot and making an impact in the opening months.
The 16-year-old Spaniard claimed the first Challenger title in March and showed his rich potential in Monte Carlo and Hamburg. Nadal skipped Roland Garros due to an elbow injury and came unprepared to Wimbledon for his first Major tournament a couple of weeks after turning 17.
In the first round, Rafa took down another youngster Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 after grueling three hours and four minutes, becoming the third-youngest player with a victory at the All England Club after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander!
Rafael Nadal made a Major debut at Wimbledon 2003, just after turning 17.
There were 30 break chances overall, and Nadal fended off 11 out of 14 to limit the damage in his games. Rafa grabbed five breaks and moved over the top for a milestone triumph over a player who defeated Roger Federer in the first round a year earlier.
Playing on a high level on his main level debut on the fastest surface, Rafa controlled the pace in the opening two sets. He struggled a bit in the third and fourth but found the way to seal the deal and set the second-round clash against the unknown Briton Lee Childs.
"I was not missing that much in the third set, maybe after playing too defensive; I played my best tennis in sets one and two. It was my Major debut, and I was a bit nervous and afraid. I played junior Wimbledon last year and did a fine job; this year, it's a pity I could not play the lead-up events before Wimbledon.
I like playing on grass, maybe I can not produce my best tennis on this surface, but it has gone my way so far. I practiced on Friday for an hour and on Saturday and Sunday, staying healthy for about a week after that elbow injury.
I would love to play on Centre Court. I started the year well but got injured and could not prepare for Wimbledon properly after missing a month. Frankly, I did not expect to win my first match here at Wimbledon, especially against Mario. I knew he had beaten Federer last year, and I knew it would be tough," Rafael Nadal said.