Playing in his first Masters 1000 tournament at the age of 16 in Monte Carlo 2003, Rafael Nadal qualified for the main draw and scored two wins to cement his place in the top-100 for the first time. In the second round, the youngster took down the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa 7-5, 6-3 in two hours, earning the first top-10 triumph and catching the attention of the entire tennis world.
The less experienced Spaniard fended off 14 out of 17 break points, fighting for every point and emerging at the top after a grueling battle, earning five breaks to book the place in the last 16. Rafa won the first set with a late break in the 12th game when Costa sprayed a forehand error, moving in front at 4-3 in set number two and sealing the deal with a hold at love in the next game for one of his most notable wins before 2005.
"It was another excellent match for me. In the beginning, it was a bit average, showing too much respect as I was afraid of the rival on the other side of the net. Later, I started to play better and better, using the fact he didn't play on his usual level but giving my best to claim the victory.
I was very eager to play while maybe he was scared a little bit after facing a younger opponent. To tell the truth, I wasn't very confident that I was going to win but it all came out nicely. It's a significant victory for me over the top-10 rival and reigning Roland Garros champion and I'm happy with the level of tennis I produced.
I feel good physically, I think I can keep this pace tomorrow as well. At the beginning of the season, I didn't think I would reach the top-100 this quickly. The thing is, you have to continue to try and keep working. Realistically speaking, I don't think I'm going far in this tournament; I will try to keep this level but that will not be easy, as things don't depend only on me."