Rafael Nadal debuted at Majors a couple of weeks after turning 17 at Wimbledon 2003. The Spaniard was already an established top-100 player, making a winning debut at the All England Club against the rival who toppled Roger Federer a year ago!
The 16-year-old Nadal needed only five months to make an impact on the ATP Tour in 2003, passing over 120 rivals on the ATP ranking list and moving inside the top-80. Following his first Challenger title and Masters 1000 wins in Monte Carlo, Rafa grabbed two triumphs in Hamburg in May before skipping Roland Garros due to an elbow injury.
Unable to play or train on grass, the young Spaniard came unprepared to Wimbledon for his first Major tournament. 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.
Rafael Nadal earned his first Major victory at 17 at Wimbledon 2003.
Thus, he became the third-youngest player to win a match at the All England Club after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander! There were 30 (!!) break chances, and Nadal fended off 11 out of 14 to keep the pressure on the other side.
The Spaniard delivered five breaks and moved over the top for a milestone triumph over a dangerous rival. It was Nadal's first ATP match on grass, and he controlled the pace in the opening two sets. Mario responded in the third before Nadal restored the order in the fourth to emerge at the top and celebrate his first Major win.
Also, he set the second-round clash against the unknown Briton Lee Childs, earning a chance to go even further. "I was not missing much in the third set, maybe after playing too defensive; I played my best tennis in sets one and two.
It was my debut at Majors, 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 to play 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 Saturday and Sunday, staying healthy for about a week after that elbow injury. I would love to play on the Centre Court. Yeah, I started the year well. The difference at Wimbledon is that I could not prepare for it properly, staying away from the competition for a month, which is an extended period.
Frankly, I did not expect to win the first round here, especially against Mario, because I knew he had beaten Federer last year, so I knew it would be tough," Rafael Nadal said.
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