After missing Roland Garros due to an elbow injury, Rafael Nadal made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in 2003, a couple of weeks after his 17th birthday. Rafa started the season ranked 200th and built on a couple of great finishes at Challenger to break into the top 100 and find himself in the major league main draws.
Rafa was unable to play the pre-Wimbledon events on grass due to that elbow injury, and faced Mario Ancic in the first round at the All England Club. Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and four minutes to earn his first Grand Slam victory.
The Spaniard fended off 11 of 14 break points and hit five breaks that lifted him to the top against the rival who stunned Roger Federer a year ago. Rafa sealed the deal in the fourth set and fixed the second round match with British unknown Lee Childs.
The world number 489 gave his best against a teenager, but Rafa scored a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory in just over two hours to become the youngest player in the third round of Wimbledon. by Mats Wilander and Boris Becker. Childs was able to play well on the fast surfaces but was unable to match Nadal’s level, earning two breaks from just four return chances.
The youngster secured six return games from 19 chances to stay in front and move into the last 32. «Yeah, I think the rain came at the right time for me; he was hitting well at the time and I wasn’t.» I played better in the first round against Mario Ancic than today, as he was not at the desired level at the end of the second and beginning of the third set.
Those two sets against Mario are still my best lawn tennis. I wasn’t at that level today because I wasn’t fast with my legs, a crucial element if you play on grass. Compared to clay, I’ve changed a bit of everything in my approach.»
Rafael Nadal did not start well
In The Age columns, Paul McNamee talks about the possibility of Rafael Nadal winning a 23rd Grand Slam title in 2023. “Will he win another Slam? Maybe not in three of the four major tournaments, but for Nadal there is always Roland-Garros.
His record of 14 titles, with the title coming in 2022, is arguably the most impressive in the history of the sport. For me, even if Nadal won practically no match this season, he would still be the favorite at Roland‐Garros, ”he estimated the former world number 1 in doubles.