The 16-year-old Rafael Nadal needed only five months to make an impact on the ATP Tour in 2003, moving inside the top-80 after passing more than 120 rivals on the ATP list. Following the first Challenger title and Masters 1000 wins in Monte Carlo, Rafa grabbed two triumphs in Hamburg as well before skipping Roland Garros due to an elbow injury.
Unable to play or train on grass, the young Spaniard came unprepared to Wimbledon for his first Major tournament and the first event after turning 17. In the first round, Rafa took down another youngster Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 after grueling three hours and four minutes, becoming the third-youngest player with a victory at the All England Club after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander!
There were 30 (!!) break chances overall and Nadal fended off 11 out of 14, delivering five breaks and moving over the top for a milestone triumph over the player who defeated Roger Federer in the first round a year earlier.
Playing on a high level on his main level debut on the fastest surface, Rafa controlled the pace in the opening two sets, struggling a little bit in the third and fourth but finding the way to seal the deal and set the clash against the unknown Briton Lee Childs.
"I wasn't missing that much in the third set, maybe after playing too defensive; I played my best tennis in sets one and two. It was my debut at Grand Slams and I was a little bit nervous and afraid. I played junior Wimbledon last year and did a fine job; this year, it's a pity I couldn't play the lead-up events before Wimbledon.
I like to play on grass, maybe I can't produce my best tennis on this surface but it has gone my way so far. I practiced on Friday for an hour and on Saturday and Sunday as well, staying healthy for about a week after that elbow injury.
I would love to play on the Centre Court. Yeah, I started out the year pretty well. The difference at Wimbledon is that I couldn't prepare for it properly, staying away from the competition for a month, which is an extended period.
Frankly, I did not expect to win the first round here, especially against Mario because I knew he had beaten Federer last year, so I knew it was going to be tough."