The 16-year-old Rafael Nadal needed only three months to make a name for himself at the beginning of 2003. The young Spaniard entered the season from just outside the top-200 and reached four Challenger finals by the end of March!
Rafa lost the first three title matches before lifting the first trophy in Barletta, adding momentum ahead of Monte Carlo. The youngster qualified for the main draw in the Principality, making his Masters 1000 debut and stunning the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa in straight sets!
In May, Rafa scored two victories at the Hamburg Masters and reached the Aix En Provence Challenger final. An injury halted the Spaniard’s progress, forcing him to skip Roland Garros and pre-Wimbledon events on grass. Returning stronger at the All England Club, the Manacor native made an impressive Major debut and reached the third round as one of the youngest players ever.
Returning to his beloved clay in July, Rafa advanced into the quarter-final in Bastad and the semi-final in Umag before winning another Challenger crown at home in Segovia.
Rafael Nadal explained his connection with Carlos Moya at the US Open 2003.
The youngster skipped the next three weeks before making the US Open debut as a top-50 player.
Nadal beat his compatriot Fernando Vicente 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round for the first victory in New York at 17. Rafa lost 22 points in 14 service games, fending off all three break chances and creating 18 break opportunities.
A teenager converted four to control the pace and move into the next round. Rafa praised his future coach Carlos Moya after the match, saying it meant a lot to him to practice with the rival from the top. Nadal revealed they both came from a small place in Mallorca, with Carlos always being there for him.
Moya became Nadal’s coach in 2017, and they have won many big titles together. “Younes El Aynaoui plays better than me on hard courts. I beat him in Bastad on clay, but he is a dangerous rival with a big serve and forehand.
He has been playing his best tennis in the last couple of years. My goal in New York is to go match by match, especially after missing three weeks. I want to improve my serve and volley in the upcoming months. Working with a better-ranked player helps, and Carlos Moya has always been there to help me; we come from a small place, and we are very close,” Rafael Nadal said.
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