With Barcelona player Miguel Angel Nadal as one uncle and the tennis lover Toni Nadal as the other, Rafael Nadal had the opportunity to embrace both sports and show his skills both on the green and red court. At the age of 12, the Manacor native decided to choose tennis as his primary sport, working with Toni and becoming one of the greatest players of all time.
Kicking off the 2003 season from outside the top-200, the 16-year-old reached three Challenger titles in the first three months before winning the first title in Barletta, heading to Monte Carlo where he ousted the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa en route to the third round, repeating the same in Hamburg.
Struggling with an elbow injury, the youngster had to miss Roland Garros and pre-Wimbledon events on grass, entering his first Major at the All England Club and beating 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 in the cathedral of tennis after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander!
Both players had their chances on the return it was and Nadal who 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.
Asked about his uncles, Rafa explained that Miguel Angel played for Barcelona in the 90s and that the entire family cheered for them during that decade. Still, Nadal admitted they are the Real Madrid supporters, going back to their favorite club once Miguel Angel left Barcelona in 1999 and returned to the local club of Mallorca.
"I picked tennis over football at the age of 12 because I played it better. When my uncle played for Barcelona, the family was cheering for them. Before that, we were all supporting Real Madrid. Once my uncle left Barcelona, we were Real Madrid fans all over again."