Kicking off 2003 season from just outside the top-200, the 16-year-old Rafael Nadal needed less than four months to cut his ranking position in half and continue the meteoric progress towards the best players in the world.
After 19 Challenger wins (four finals, including the title in Barletta) and the third-round result in Monte Carlo, Rafa cracked the top-100 in April and continued to charge in the following months at such a young age, securing the place among the 50 chosen players in August.
Despite a nasty injury that halted his ascent in the spring of 2004, Rafa managed to win the first ATP title in August that year and keep his ranking position ahead of 2005 when he set eyes on big targets, competing in the fourth round of the Australian Open before conquering Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco.
The best was yet to come for an extraordinary teenager, standing two points away from winning the title in Miami and going all the way in Monte Carlo for his first Masters 1000 crown. Eager for more of that, Rafa headed to Barcelona with no rest and stood as the last man on Sunday, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets (the best-of-five final) to grab another title and additional 300 points that sent him into the top-10 for the first time in a career.
At the age of 18 years and ten months, Rafa became the eighth-youngest player in the top-10 since the start of the ATP ranking in 1973 behind Krickstein, Chang, Becker, Borg, Wilander, Agassi and Medvedev and the only at that age after 1993.
Entering the top-10 on April 25, 2005, Rafael Nadal never left that group, standing on 735 consecutive weeks in the elite company for the second-longest Open era streak behind Jimmy Connors, leaving Roger Federer on 734 when the new list came out this Monday.
Roger was the top-10 player between October 2002 and October 2016, having to drop out for a few weeks after an injury but returning in January 2017 and never leaving again. It wasn't easy to stay for in the top-10 for more than 14 years without leaving and Rafa has managed to move ahead of Federer, surviving the toughest period between November 2016 and January 2017 and getting back on the winning way, never dropping out from the top-3 in the last two years.
The Spaniard will have to extend this outstanding streak for another year to catch Jimmy Connors' record of 785 consecutive weeks in the top-10 (1973-1988) and he is on the right track at the moment, competing with the same desire as ever and still eager to show his best tennis at biggest stages around the tennis globe.