Rafael Nadal on his first top-10 win: ‘It means a lot’

Rafael Nadal scored his first top-10 win in Monte Carlo 2003, a year after making an ATP debut. Rafa’s first ATP win came in Mallorca 2002 at 15, and he finished that season ranked just outside the top-200. The young Spaniard, who barely played junior tournaments, showed his true colors in the opening months of 2003, reaching four Challenger finals and winning the title in Barletta to move closer to a place in the top-100. A few weeks later, Rafa qualified for the main draw in Monte Carlo, entering his first Masters 1000 event and building confidence ahead of challenging encounters on his beloved surface. In the first round, Nadal stormed over Karol Kucera and set the clash against the reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa.

Rafael Nadal earned his first top-10 win over Albert Costa in Monte Carlo 2003.

Showing no sign of fear, a teenager ousted the better-ranked and more experienced compatriot 7-5, 6-3 in two hours, entering the top-100 and securing his first top-10 triumph at such a young age! Nadal fended off 14 out of 17 break chances to present a massive mental strength, fighting for every point and emerging at the top after a grueling battle and five breaks on his tally. Rafa won the first set with a late break in the 12th game thanks to Costa’s forehand error that gave him a massive boost. The youngster forged the advantage at 4-3 in set number two and sealed the deal with a hold at love a few minutes later for one of his most notable victories ahead of the exceptional 2005 season. 

“It was another excellent match for me. It was a bit average initially, as I showed too much respect, afraid of the rival on the other side of the net. I started to raise my level, using the fact that Albert didn’t play on his usual level and giving my best to claim the victory. I was very eager to compete, while maybe he was scared a bit after facing a younger opponent. I wasn’t very confident that I would win, but it all came out nicely. It’s a significant victory for me over the top-10 rival and reigning Roland Garros champion, and I’m happy with my tennis. I feel good physically, and I think I can keep this pace tomorrow. At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think I would reach the top-100 this quickly. The thing is, you have to continue to try and keep working. Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’m going far this week; I will try to keep this level, but it will not be easy, as things don’t depend only on me,” Rafael Nadal said.