On this day 15 years ago, Rafael Nadal scored his first ATP victory in home ATP 250 event in Mallorca, beating Ramon Delgado from Paraguay by 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 23 minutes. Not only that Delgado was ranked inside the Top 100, but Nadal was still 15 years and 10 months old when he achieved this milestone, as one of 10 youngest players who managed to win the match on the ATP level in the Open era! His coeval and great rivals from these early years, Richard Gasquet, achieved something similar a few weeks earlier in Monte Carlo, and they were the first 15-year-old players with an ATP win since Tommy Ho in 1988, while Ryan Harrison is the only one who did that after them.
Nadal never fancied junior tournaments, carving his way towards the tennis glory on the professional Tour since he was 14, gathering experience in the Satellites qualifications already at the age of 14 in 2001 (he also had a chance to play at Mallorca in 2001, losing in the opening qualifying round).
Nadal made his main draw debut at the pro level in September that year, first at Spain F10 Futures and then in Seville Challenger where he scored his first pro triumph to make a debut on the ATP rankings list, just outside the Top 1000.
The first notable Satellites results came in November, and it was clear that this wasn't a regular tennis player of his age, but a rather special one! In 2002, still before 16th birthday, Rafa played two Satellites and the qualifications in Barcelona (as we all know, he will have a lot of success at this event in the years to come), before receiving a wild card for the main draw in Mallorca.
9 years older and much more experienced Ramon Delgado couldn't stop young Rafa on his beloved surface in his hometown, world number 762 broke his rival 5 times from 7 chances to notch a 6-4 6-4 triumph. This was really a story of the day on that Monday 15 years ago, as we don't have a chance to see a 15-year-old beating a player from the Top 100 on the ATP level event very often.
Olivier Rochus ousted young Mallorcan 6-2 6-2 in the second round but Rafa was more than happy with his result here, and this was a true jump board for the rest of the season. Nadal turned 16 in June and just a month later he grabbed his first Futures title in Alicante, followed by 5 more until the end of the year, a feat that was hard to reach for much stronger, experienced and better-ranked players than him! Like that wasn't enough, Rafa reached the semis in Barcelona Challenger, beating Albert Montanes before losing to Albert Portas, showing his class on a more serious level than Futures too.
Nadal was ranked outside Top 800 when 2002 started and in just 12 months he made 600 positions, still at a very young age, and it was clear that a new tennis star was born. In 2003, Rafa was already a well-established clay courter, winning Challenger titles and scoring Masters 1000 wins, everything before turning 17, and he almost reached his first ATP final in Umag in July.
Everything that followed is written down in tennis history with golden letters, as Nadal carved his path towards tennis immortals, but he will always remember this first ATP win he scored in front of the home crowd. ALSO READ: ATP BARCELONA: Nadal ousts Zeballos to reach his 10th final here