Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I lost, but I played well'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I lost, but I played well'

Rafael Nadal was the youngster on a mission at the beginning of 2003. The 16-year-old reached four Challenger finals and conquered one title to move closer to a place in the top-100. Nadal qualified for his first Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo and ousted Karol Kucera in the first round for a notable win at the premium event.

Not stopping there, Rafa took down the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa in the second round to enter the last 16. It was Nadal's first top-10 victory, giving him a lot of boost. Still, he could not use it to pass another obstacle and reach the quarter-final following a 7-6, 6-2 loss to Guillermo Coria in an hour and 34 minutes.

Both players created eight break chances, and Coria seized five to control the scoreboard in the second set. Guillermo suffered three breaks and had the upper hand after a tight opener. It went into a tie break, and the Argentine clinched it after Nadal's forehand error at 6-3.

Coria built the advantage in the second set and served for the victory at 5-1. Nadal made one last push and pulled one break back to prolong the duel. Still, that was all we saw from the youngster in Monte Carlo that year, getting broken in game eight after a poor drop shot that propelled Coria into the last eight.

Despite the loss, the youngster was pleased with his performance that week, feeling a bit tired but eager to continue with good results.

Rafael Nadal reached the third round at his Masters 1000 debut in Monte Carlo 2003.

"I'm happy with this tournament.

Also, I lost today, but I'm pleased with how I played, producing solid tennis and creating opportunities. Guillermo was physically stronger than me. I played many matches in the last couple of days, and I felt a bit tired, I have to admit.

My shots were not where I wanted them to be, and Guillermo overpowered me; he deserved victory. I defeated Costa yesterday, but there was not possible against Coria. However, I'm happy with a 7-6, 6-2 loss; that's not that bad versus such a good player.

I will take some rest tomorrow and start preparing for Barcelona. Instead of Valencia, I will play a Challenger in France at the end of April, with Valencia organizers not confirming a wild card for me. Nothing will change after Monte Carlo.

Despite a good result, I will continue doing what I have done every day. You learn how to play on a high level at events like this, and I will try to keep it in the upcoming weeks," Rafael Nadal said.