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:
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.
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.
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 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.