Rafael Nadal's Giant-Killing Act: Taking Down the Top-10 Rival

16-year-old Rafael Nadal defeated the Roland Garros champion in Monte Carlo 2003

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Giant-Killing Act: Taking Down the Top-10 Rival

Rafael Nadal made his Masters 1000 debut in Monte Carlo 2003, still at 16. The youngster qualified for the main draw and scored two victories to secure a place in the top-100. Rafa introduced himself to the tennis world with his second-round win over the reigning Roland Garros champion, and the rest is history!

Nadal made an impressive debut following a 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Karol Kucera in 63 minutes. The youngster outplayed world no. 49 on serve and return, dropping 12 points behind the initial shot and fending off all three break points.

Rafa grabbed 56% of the return points and left the Slovak far behind. The Spaniard seized four breaks from six opportunities to race over the top and deliver his first Masters 1000 triumph at 16.

Rafael Nadal scored his first top-10 victory in Monte Carlo 2003.

Nadal played well in windy conditions, staying aggressive and making the right shots at the right time to set the second-round clash against the defending Roland Garros champion Albert Costa.

Rafa earned a notable 7-5, 6-3 triumph in two hours, earning the first top-10 win and catching the attention of the entire tennis world. The less experienced Spaniard fended off 14 out of 17 break points, fighting for every point and emerging at the top after a grueling battle.

Nadal earned five breaks to book the place in the last 16. Rafa won the first set with a late break in the 12th game when Costa sprayed a forehand error. He moved in front at 4-3 in set number two and sealed the deal with a hold at love in the next game for one of his most notable wins before 2005.

"It was another excellent match. Initially, it was a bit average, as I showed too much respect, being afraid of the rival on the other side of the net. I started playing better later, using the fact Albert did not play at his usual level.

I gave my best to claim the victory. I was eager to play, while maybe he was slightly scared after facing a younger opponent. Honestly, I was not very confident that I would win, but it all came out nicely. It's a significant victory for me over the top-10 rival and reigning Roland Garros champion, and I'm happy with the level of tennis I produced.

I feel good physically; I think I can also keep this pace tomorrow. At the beginning of the season, I did not think I would reach the top-100 this quickly. You have to continue to try and keep working. Realistically speaking, I do not think I'm going far in this tournament; I will try to keep this level, but that will not be easy, as things do not depend only on me," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Roland Garros Monte Carlo