After missing Roland Garros with an elbow injury, Rafael Nadal made his Major debut at Wimbledon 2003, a couple of weeks after his 17th birthday. Rafa started the season ranked around 200th, and capitalized on a couple of big Challenger finishes to break into the top-100 and find himself in the main draws at Majors.
Rafa was unable to play the events leading up to Wimbledon on grass due to that elbow injury, and faced Mario Ancic in the first round at the All England Club. Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and four minutes to achieve his first Grand Slam victory.
The Spaniard avoided 11 of 14 break points and hit five breaks to take him to the top against the opponent who stunned Roger Federer a year ago. Rafa sealed the deal in the fourth set and set up the second round match with unknown Briton Lee Childs.
The world number 489 gave his best against a teenager, but Rafa scored a 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory in just over two hours to become the youngest player in the third round at Wimbledon from Mats Wilander and Boris Becker. Childs was able to play well on fast surfaces but was unable to match Nadal's level, winning two breaks from just four return chances.
The youngster secured six return games from 19 chances to stay in front and find himself in the last 32. "Yes, I think the rain came at the right time for me; he was hitting well at the time, and I wasn't. I played better in the first round against Mario Ancic than today, as I wasn't at the desired level at the end of the second and at the beginning of the third set.
Those two sets against Mario are still my best tennis on grass. I wasn't at that level today as I wasn't quick with my legs, a crucial element if you play on grass. Compared to clay, I've changed a little bit of everything in my approach.
Nadal has won two Majors this year
Rafael Nadal's quest for a 23rd Grand Slam title continues as he gears up to face Botic van de Zandschulp. “I played him at Roland Garros and I think at the moment, that is the biggest challenge in tennis.
I think it's going to be a tough one here at Wimbledon, but, I have more confidence here to really make a shot. Maybe I can hurt him on grass. I think what he has done, winning 22 Grand Slams, is something nobody is ever going to do.
Maybe Djokovic is the only one who is going to do it,” van de Zandschulp said. “I remember the match he played against Federer, the final here in 2008. I think it went pretty late, in five sets. That one was quite insane.
I think he had match points in the fourth set and Federer hit a backhand down the line on match point. I think that match stands out for me," he added.