Rafael Nadal was just 19 years old when he won his first Grand Slam at the 2005 French Open. Since that historic run, no male teenager has even come close to winning a Major, which shows how difficult it is for a youngster to break through.
But Nadal recently claimed that his 2005 title wasn't the most challenging of his career. For the Spaniard, his 2011 and 2020 triumphs at Roland Garros were even tougher given the special circumstances in those years.
Rafael Nadal has won a whopping 13 French Open titles, with a spectacular 100-2 win-loss record at the venue. The Spaniard has also won another seven Majors combined at the Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon, tying Roger Federer for the all-time highest Slam tally of 20.
During a recent conversation on 'Alvarez Cafe', Rafael Nadal explained why he doesn’t think his maiden Roland Garros win was very surprising. The Mallorcan pointed out how his pre-tournament form and youthful energy gave him enough confidence to stamp his authority on Paris in 2005.
“My first title there, I don't think it's the most complicated or the most surprising,” Nadal said. “In 2005 I definitely started to stand out. I had already won in Brazil, Acapulco, Miami final, Barcelona, Rome, therefore when I arrived at Roland Garros it is true that I was young, but also one of the favorites. And the young age give you that confidence and that audacity you need. I had energy to spare that year."
When it comes to his Roland Garros campaigns in 2011 and 2020 though, Rafael Nadal believes he faced much tougher odds. He recalled that in 2011 he was struggling for confidence, and that in 2020 the weather conditions were not suited to his game.
“I would say 2011, because it was a difficult year for me, and especially 2020 because it was the most unexpected victory due to the conditions in which the tournament took place,” the Spaniard added.
I started playing tennis when I was three: Rafael Nadal
During the interview, Rafael Nadal was also asked why he decided to pursue tennis as a career. The Spaniard revealed that his uncle Toni started giving him lessons right from the age of three, and explained how the sport kept growing in importance for him.
“I also played soccer,” Nadal said. “Tennis, because my uncle was a coach. I started when I was three, once a week or something like that. I continued playing more and until I was 13 years old, also soccer. Then no longer, because I had to study. Like many people, there are circumstances that help you take a path, and this was mine."