On this day: Rafael Nadal makes his ATP Tour debut

ATP Tour
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal made his ATP Tour debut on this day in 2002, beating Ramon Delgado in the first round of the Mallorca Open.

Prior to his ATP tour debut in Mallorca, Nadal had played just three matches as a professional but he made an immediate impression.

Nadal broke Delgado five times en route to a 6-4, 6-4 victory that took an hour and 23 minutes.

The 15-year-old Spaniard was understandably delighted with the result and his game.

“I really wanted to go out there and play well,” Nadal said afterwards.

“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I held my game. I thought I played well, keeping the ball deep and maintaining the power.”

Two months shy of his 16th birthday at the time of his triumph over then World No 81 Delgado, Nadal was the ninth men’s singles player to notch an ATP Tour win before their sweet sixteen.

After a taste of the ATP Tour in his home town, Nadal continued to hone his game on the Challengers and Futures Tours before stepping up yet again in Monte Carlo in 2003.

A first round victory for a Mallorcan teenager might have warranted little more than local headlines, but we look back at it through the lens of Nadal’s all-time great career.

His father Toni resisted offers from the Spanish Tennis Federation to have him moved to Barcelona.

“I don’t want to believe that you have to go to America, or other places to be a good athlete. You can do it from your home,” Toni Nadal told Inside Tennis in 2008.

Initially a clay court prodigy, Nadal has relentlessly honed his craft and improved to be among the best allround players ever to play the sport.

Despite pulling up injured at Indian Wells and missing the second half of March and the whole of April, Nadal is still the favourite for the 2022 French Open title.

If he comes out on top at Roland Garros, Nadal will be a 14-time French Open champion and a 22-time Grand Slam winner.

Nadal will return to ATP Tour action at the Madrid Open in May.

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