The Grass is Greener: Rafael Nadal's Triumphs and Lessons at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal enjoyed a great run at his first Major 20 years ago

by Jovica Ilic
The Grass is Greener: Rafael Nadal's Triumphs and Lessons at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal debuted at Majors at Wimbledon 2003, a couple of weeks after turning 17. The youngster reached the third round as the third-youngest player in the Open era, continuing where he left on clay. Nadal could not play pre-Wimbledon events due to an injury, and he was pleased with his level and two victories, his first on grass at the ATP level.

Still at 16, Rafael Nadal was ready to embrace an entire professional season in 2003, already standing on the verge of the top-200. The young Spaniard reached four Challenger finals by March, winning one title and entering the Monte Carlo qualifying draw.

A teenager found himself in the main action and defeated Karol Kucera and Albert Costa to earn enough points for a place in the top-100. Nadal reached another third round in Hamburg before missing Roland Garros and pre-Wimbledon grass events due to an elbow injury.

Rafael Nadal reached the 2003 Wimbledon third round at 17.

Rafa recovered for Wimbledon, making his debut at Majors at 17. The last year's junior semi-finalist ousted Mario Ancic in the first round 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and four minutes, saving 11 out of 14 break points and delivering five breaks that carried him over the top.

Thus, Rafa became the third-youngest player with a Wimbledon win after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander. Nadal met world no. 489 Lee Childs in the second round and produced a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory for a place in the third round and another notable result.

The young Spaniard met world no. 11 Paradorn Srischaphan in the third round and experienced a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 loss in an hour and 56 minutes. Rafa grabbed two breaks but lost serve six times to hit the exit door. A teenager built a 4-2 lead in set number two before losing ten of the final 12 games to send the rival into the last 16, still ending his first Wimbledon campaign with positive vibes.

"It was a pleasant experience to compete in the Wimbledon main draw. It's a new surface for me, making me realize I have to work on shots that are not that important on clay, like serve. Also, I played three matches at a high level, which will greatly help me develop.

I did not start well today, getting broken in the first game; that's never a good sign on the fastest surface. I had to chase the result and was two breaks down in the closing stages of the opener before pulling one break back.

I also had a chance to level the score at 5-5, but I did not. I was 4-2, 30-0 up in set number two before hitting double faults and missing shots in the crucial moments. It has been a good tournament; I won two matches on grass, the surface I had not played at for a year, losing to world no.

11. The young players from Spain are eager to learn how to compete on the fast surface. Guys like David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo are already good on grass; they can reach the latter rounds here in the future," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Wimbledon