Rafael Nadal's Grass Gambit: Conquering Challenges at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal had a memorable run at Wimbledon 2003, still at 17

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Grass Gambit: Conquering Challenges at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal will compete at Wimbledon two decades after debuting at Majors at the All England Club. Struggling with a hip injury since January, Nadal underwent surgery a week ago and will start rehabilitation that should make him injury-free in five months.

Rafa had a memorable first year at Wimbledon, entering his first Major event at 17 in June 2003. Nadal missed Roland Garros due to an elbow injury and did not play on grass before Wimbledon. The last year's junior semi-finalist used that experience to notch his first ATP wins on grass and become the youngest player in the Wimbledon third round since the 80s!

Rafa's first Major match came against the promising Croat Mario Ancic. The Spaniard earned a 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory in just over three hours, becoming the third-youngest player with a win in the tennis cathedral.

Rafael Nadal scored two triumphs at Wimbledon 2003.

They created 30 break chances despite the fastest surface.

Rafa denied 11 out of 14 and produced five breaks that carried him over the top and toward his first ATP win on grass. Nadal met world no. 489 Lee Childs in the second round, with a massive chance to extend his run. The young gun took it with both hands after a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 triumph in just over two hours.

Childs grabbed two breaks from only four chances. It was not enough to keep him competitive, with the youngster securing six breaks from 19 opportunities to stay in front and find himself in the third round. "Yes, the rain came at the right moment for me; my rival was hitting well in those moments, and I did not.

I played better in the first two sets against Mario Ancic than today. I was unhappy with my level at the end of the second and the beginning of the third set. Those two sets against Mario are still my best tennis on grass; today, I was not at that level as I was not fast with my legs, a crucial element if you play on grass.

In comparison to clay, I changed a bit of everything. The grip on my forehand and backhand differs, and I serve with more slice. The important thing is that everything is fine with my elbow. I should lose in the next round, you know.

Before Wimbledon, I would have signed a five-set loss in the first round and be happy with that result because I could not play for a month. I will do my best in the next match, and we will see," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Wimbledon