Rafael Nadal was never an ordinary player, even in his junior days when most of the players follow the similar path in their development. In his early years, the great Mallorcan had competed in the biggest events on the Tennis Europe circuit but he was never a fan of the ITF junior tournaments, preparing himself for the professional Tour at the age when the other players only started to make their first junior steps. Still at the age of 14, Nadal had begun his professional journey in January 2001 at Satellites tournaments in Cala Ratjada at home in Spain.
He had tried to qualify for the main draw in March and April as well before he got a chance to play in the qualifications of the home ATP 250 event in Mallorca, gathering experience and preparing himself for the more challenging battles on the Futures and Challenger Tours.
His first professional match in the main draw was at Spain F10 Futures in Madrid in September 2001, just three months after he turned 15. The talented youngster received a wild card and his first rival was Guillermo Platel-Varas who defeated him 2-6 7-5 6-2, but only after saving 13 match points! Platel-Varas was ranked 731st but he struggled to stay in touch with Nadal early on, as Rafa won the first set in dominant style, with so many opportunities to close the match and earn his first ATP point.
Guillermo somehow fends off all those match points to steal the set 7-5 and he sailed through the decider against the youngster who had nothing more left in the tank after that heartbreaking second set. This was just a part of the process and a learning curve for the Mallorcan who quickly forgot this setback, clinching his first pro win next week in Seville Challenger when he ousted Israel Matos Gil 6-4 6-4 before losing in the second round to world number 161 Stefano Galvani.
On September 24, Rafa made a debut on the ATP rankings list at the 1002nd place and just 12 months later we could find him in the Top 400, carving his way towards the Top 100 and the biggest tennis arenas that would welcome him already in 2003.
As we all know, the rest is pretty much history. ALSO READ: US Open 1995: Pete Sampras tops Andre Agassi to secure the title