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Watch: 16-year-old Rafael Nadal's first-ever Monte-Carlo match in 2003

Rafael Nadal serves during his opening-round match at the 2003 Monte-Carlo Masters
Rafael Nadal serves during his opening-round match at the 2003 Monte-Carlo Masters
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Ewan West

In April 2003, Rafael Nadal made his first-ever appearance at the Monte-Carlo Masters at the age of 16. It also marked the great Spaniard's maiden appearance at a Masters 1000 tournament.

In 2002, the Mallorcan had won six ITF Futures tournaments in Spain from July to December. The teenager started 2003 by finishing as a runner-up at three ATP Challenger events - Hamburg, Cherbourg and Cagliari. He then won his first Challenger title at the Barletta Open, on clay, in Italy in March, his last event before Monte-Carlo.

Ranked 109th in the world at the time, Nadal entered the Monte-Carlo main draw as a qualifier. In the opening round, he faced Karol Kucera, a former World No. 6, who then sat 49th in the ATP rankings. The 16-year-old decimated Kucera 6-1, 6-2 on his Masters 1000 debut to begin his love affair with the Monte-Carlo Masters.

You can watch highlights of the match here:

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The Spaniard backed up his opening-round victory with a stunning second-round triumph against the fourth seed and defending Roland Garros champion Albert Costa. He won 7-5, 6-3 against his countryman to earn his first victory against a top-10 opponent.

Nadal's run at the 2003 Monte-Carlo Masters ended with a 7-6(3), 6-2 defeat to World No. 26 Guillermo Coria, who went on to lose to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final.

Following the loss to Coria, the Mallorcan did not lose in Monte-Carlo for 10 years. After missing the 2004 edition, he started an incredible run of eight straight Monte-Carlo titles in 2005.

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The Spaniard's 46-match winning streak at the event was snapped in a straight-sets defeat to Novak Djokovic in the 2013 final. He has since won three more Monte-Carlo crowns (2016-2018) to move to an ATP Masters 1000 record of 11 titles.

Rafael Nadal will miss the 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters through injury

Rafael Nadal leaves the court at the 2021 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
Rafael Nadal leaves the court at the 2021 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Rafael Nadal withdrew ahead of the 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters due to a rib stress fracture he suffered in Indian Wells last month. The injury occurred during the third set of his semi-final victory over Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells.

It is only the second time the Spaniard has missed the tournament since making his debut in 2003. The 35-year-old lost to eventual runner-up Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals of last year's edition.

The 2022 tournament started today and will run until April 17.


Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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