In 2003, Rafael Nadal still had to turn 17 and was already showing some of his great qualities to the world. In that year the Spanish phenomenon won two Challenger titles, also achieved success in the Masters 1000 and was immediately raised as one of the most interesting young people on the world tennis scene.
In the following season Rafa took another step, reached the first ATP final in Auckland and above all managed to defeat the World number 1 Roger Federer in Miami. It was the beginning of an incredible dualism that still lasts today and that sees the Spaniard prevail in direct confrontations.
Four years after the first, Spain conquered the second Davis Cup title in front of the partisan crowd of 25,000, with Nadal performing on a very high level to oust world no. 2 Andy Roddick in the second rubber. Speaking about the match almost 16 years later while watching it on the ITF Youtube channel, Roddick said it is evidence that he won a set against Nadal on clay and gave confidence to the 11-year-old to chase 19 Major crowns.
Roddick on Rafael Nadal
“Proof that I won a set against Rafael Nadal on clay. He was 11 years old at the time, and there wasn’t much else to celebrate over next 3 sets, but those seem like unimportant details from where I sit.
If anything, I just gave him the confidence to win 19 majors" - Andy Roddick explained. "Rafa Nadal is one of the most accomplished athletes on earth...the humility...he looks the same throughout the year," Roddick added.
"He can take a joke. He has this child-like innocence. He doesn't know how great he is. That is why he is so endearing to tennis fans around the world. Rafa is fine playing 10-12 events a year, making sure he is up for the French, getting his matches in, playing the Masters Series events on clay.
Going into the US Open with very few hardcourt matches, Rafa feels comfortable about it. I think that he used to feel the desperation to take reps on surfaces that weren't clay and now he is comfortable enough at the ripe old age of 34 to kind of go and trust the process.
He is going to have to grind through the first couple of rounds to gain form. But then once he does that, he is a legitimate contender at any Slam" - the former World number 1 concluded.