I was better at tennis than football, Rafael Nadal reflects.

It’s easy to conclude that Rafael Nadal, a 22-time Major champion, made the right decision when he chose tennis over football. With tennis enthusiast Toni Nadal as one uncle and Barcelona star Miguel Angel Nadal as the other, Nadal had the chance to enjoy both sports and display his abilities on the red and green courts.

The native of Manacor made the decision to focus on tennis at the age of 12, trained with Toni, and rose to become one of the all-time greats. The 16-year-old started the 2003 season outside of the top-200 and advanced to three Challenger finals in the first three months before taking home the maiden victory in Barletta.

Rafa went to Monte Carlo and made it into the main draw with momentum on his side. The rising talent defeated Albert Costa, the champion at Roland Garros, en route to the third round, gaining momentum and repeating that run in Hamburg.

The young man missed pre-Wimbledon and Roland Garros events on grass due to an elbow issue. A few weeks after turning 17 and a year after making the junior semifinals, Nadal competed in his first Major at the All England Club.

Mario Ancic lost against Nadal. After a taxing three hours and four minutes, the score was 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

At Wimbledon 2003, Rafael Nadal talked about his favorite sports.

With a win in the tennis cathedral, the Spaniard overtook Mats Wilander and Boris Becker as the third-youngest player!

On the return, both players had their chances. Nadal overcame a man who had beaten Roger Federer in the first round a year earlier by fending off 11 of 14 attacks while making five breaks.

When asked about his uncles, Rafa said that Miguel Angel represented Barcelona in football during the 1990s, a time when the entire family supported them. Nevertheless, Nadal acknowledged that they are Real Madrid followers and that they started supporting the team once more once Miguel Angel left Barcelona in 1999 and joined the Mallorca club.

“At age 12, I chose tennis over football because I could play it better. The family supported Barcelona when my uncle played for them. We were all Real Madrid fans before then. My uncle left Barcelona, and we became Real Madrid supporters once more “stated Rafael Nadal.