For 2003, Rafael Nadal was the breakout star, having risen from outside the top 200 to the top 50 in just seven months, a remarkable demonstration of his extraordinary talent and drive. After making it to four Challenger finals by the end of March and taking home the first title at Barletta, the then-16-year-old won five ATP events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Hamburg before withdrawing from Roland Garros and the events leading up to Wimbledon due to injury.
On his first Major appearance, Rafa was one of the youngest competitors and made it to the third round at the All England Club. Nadal performed well in his return to his preferred surface, clay, reaching the semifinals in Umag and winning the Segovia Challenger.
Nadal won just two more matches after Segovia due to an injury-plagued second half of the year, but he still managed to place in the top 50 at season’s end. In the first round of the Madrid Masters, Rafa was defeated in two hours and seven minutes by Alex Corretja, a fellow Spaniard who had a terrible season, falling out of the top 100 for the first time in 11 years.
The older Spaniard advanced to the next round by winning four more points than the younger opponent, despite suffering six break points in the second set. When asked about his recent performance, Nadal said he needs to be more aggressive and take control of the rallies.
Not having done well in my games. I’ve been putting in a lot of work in practice over the past few weeks, but it hasn’t translated to my matches. To be honest, I have no idea what the problem is, but I’m not playing as well as I once did.
That’s life; all we can do is keep plugging away.
Nadal, on his tenacity of mind
Every generation in tennis eventually passes the torch to the next. It is natural that some of our greatest stars will be eclipsed by others.
Maybe what happened to us is just the passage of time, but I have no doubt that the newcomers will eventually become dominant,” Rafael Nadal said. The ex-World No. 1 mentioned it as well, stressing the value of challenging oneself in competition for the development of one’s mental toughness.
Competing successfully requires a combination of physical fitness and mental toughness. Mental toughness is another area that I have trained with my uncle Toni ever since I was a kid. Later, “that work continued with the development of my career, and the competition itself made it intensify and continue to develop,” Nadal said.