For Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon is a special tournament with its tradition, grass surface, and everything surrounding it. The Spaniard feels honored for winning two Wimbledon crowns in 2008 and 2010, embracing thrilling encounters against his greatest rivals at the All England Club over the years.
While the other players of his generation were thinking about the junior results, the 16-year-old Rafael Nadal had more serious plans at the beginning of 2003. The upcoming youngster reached the final of Hamburg Challenger to crack the top-200, continuing his incredible journey towards the very top of men's tennis.
The extraordinary teenager scored 19 Challenger wins in the season's first three months to find himself inside the top-150, earning five ATP wins in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Hamburg to introduce himself to the world of tennis.
Battling on the professional circuit since 2001, Nadal had played only two junior tournaments in his career, and one of those came at Wimbledon 2002 when he reached the semi-final, losing to Lamine Ouahab in straight sets.
Twelve months later, the Spaniard was ready to make his professional debut on grass, playing his first match at the sacred courts at the All England Club on June 23 against Mario Ancic. Rafa defeated the Croat 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and four minutes to become the third-youngest player in the Open era with a Wimbledon triumph after Boris Becker and Mats Wilander.
Rafa had just two aces, although he knew what he had to do against the player who toppled Roger Federer a year earlier, serving at 75% and winning 42% of the return points to break Mario five times from 16 opportunities. The Croat created 14 break chances and converted only three, not enough for a more favorable result.
Rafael Nadal made Wimbledon debut in 2003 and won two titles in 2008 and 2010.
In round two, Rafa played against the anonymous Briton Lee Childs and notched a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 triumph in just over two hours, becoming the youngest player in the third round since Boris Becker in 1985!
Nadal was the dominant figure on the return, taking 44% of the points in Childs' games and facing only four break chances, getting broken twice but earning six breaks on the other side to find himself in the last 32. World no.
11 Paradorn Srichaphan proved to be too strong, ending Nadal's dream run with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win in under two hours, losing serve twice and breaking Rafa six times from 15 opportunities to send the youngster packing.
It was a wonderful week for the Spaniard, who would ride on that wave to complete the season inside the top-50, setting eyes on even higher goals in 2004, still at 17. "Each tournament has its unique charm. Wimbledon is different, because of its tradition and everything.
Grass surface automatically makes everything a more beautiful experience. The Central Court is a special one in the world of tennis and sport in general. It was a privilege when I played there for the first time, and it is a pleasure every time you go to compete there. I was always very excited about winning Wimbledon one day, and I am lucky to have won it twice," Rafael Nadal said.