Rafael Nadal after first Masters 1000 victory: ‘I’m delighted with how I played’

Kicking off the 2003 season from just outside the top-200, the 16-year-old star in the making Rafael Nadal was keen to gain positions on the ATP list as soon as possible after a breakthrough run in the previous year. The Manacor native lost three Challenger finals in the opening three months in Hamburg, Cherbourg and Cagliari before winning the first Challenger crown in the last week of March in Barletta. With those 50 points, Rafa moved closer to a place in the top-100 and showed his full potential ahead of the ATP clay swing. A couple of weeks later, the entire tennis world could witness that at the season’s first Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo.

Nadal qualified for his first Masters 1000 tournament on beloved clay and entered the second ATP event after Mallorca 2002. Making an impressive debut on the premium ATP series, Nadal toppled world no. 49 Karol Kucera 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes, erasing his inexperience with incredible desire and tennis skills. Rafa dropped only 12 points in eight service games and fended off all three break chances to keep his initial shot intact and mount the pressure on the other side of the net.

Rafael Nadal earned the first Masters 1000 victory in Monte Carlo 2003 at 16.

Dominating both serve and return and having the upper hand from start to finish, Rafa claimed 56% of the return points to deliver four breaks from six opportunities and race into the second round after an impressive Masters 1000 debut. The youngster played well in windy conditions, staying aggressive and making the right shots at the right time to leave the Slovak behind and set the second-round clash with the defending Roland Garros champion Albert Costa. 

“I’m delighted to win the first match; I played very well against Karol. I was more aggressive than usual, adjusting to the surface nicely and finding my shots. Like everyone else, I practiced twice a week and developed a nice touch very early in my career, starting to work more and more and winning two national crowns at 11 and 12. We indeed had windy conditions today, but I’m used to that, playing my usual game without thinking about weather or anything, as you do not influence that,” Rafael Nadal said.