On this day: Rafael Nadal, 18, cracks top-10, staying there ever since!



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On this day: Rafael Nadal, 18, cracks top-10, staying there ever since!

Kicking off the 2003 season from just outside the top-200, the 16-year-old Rafael Nadal needed under four months to pass half of the rivals in front of him and maintain stellar progress towards the top-tier of the ATP world.

After 19 Challenger wins (four finals, one title in Barletta) and the third-round result in Monte Carlo, Rafa cracked the top-100 in April and continued to charge in the following months at such a young age, securing the place among the top-50 by August.

Despite a nasty injury in Estoril that had halted his rise in the spring of 2004, Rafa won the first ATP title four months later. Despite ups and downs, the youngster kept his ranking position ahead of 2005 when he set eyes on big targets, competing in the Australian Open fourth round before conquering Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco on beloved clay.

The best was yet to come for an extraordinary teenager, standing two points away from winning the title in Miami against Roger Federer and going all the way in Monte Carlo a few weeks later for his first Masters 1000 crown, toppling Guillermo Coria after a marathon.

Eager for more, Rafa headed to Barcelona with no rest and conquered the title, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets (the best-of-five final) to grab another crown and additional 300 points that propelled him into the top-10 for the first time in a career.

Rafael Nadal cracked the top-10 in 2005 and has stayed there ever since.

At 18 years and ten months, Rafa became the eighth-youngest player in the elite group since the start of the ATP ranking in 1973 behind Aaron Krickstein, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Andrei Medvedev, and the youngest since 1993!

Despite many troubles with injuries, Rafa has never left the elite group in the past 16 years, forging 813 consecutive top-10 weeks for the record that will hardly be matched in the future. The Spaniard has spent 760 of those weeks in the top-5, proving his unmatched consistency and raising the bar high for the upcoming youngsters who will have to stay at the top of their games for over 15 years to match Nadal's numbers.

After a mediocre period between Roland Garros 2014 and the end of 2016 (it was still good enough to keep him in the top-10), Nadal bounced back to become one of the world's best players from 2017 and extend his incredible tennis journey.

With 20 Major titles and 35 Masters 1000 crowns by his name, Rafa is right up there in the GOAT race against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, proving his quality almost 20 years after making a professional debut and hoping to extend his career and secure more notable results and records.