Rafael Nadal's incredible ATP journey

Rafael Nadal’s incredible ATP journey

At 36 years old, Rafael Nadal is still among the best players in the world. The Spaniard clinched two Major titles in 2022 to overtake Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer and top the charts. Nadal played a historic match in London on Friday night, appearing alongside Roger Federer in the Swiss’ last career match.

On Saturday, Rafa celebrates a beautiful milestone, entering the ATP rankings 21 years ago that day! While his peers were taking their first steps on the junior tour, a player from Mallorca took a different route. Born in Manacor after turning 16 in 2002, he played just two events on the ITF Junior Tour, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and winning the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas final.

Rafa focused on professional events from such a young age and started competing at this level in 2001 at the age of 14! Fighting against older and more experienced rivals, Nadal failed to qualify for home satellites and futures.

Rafael Nadal made his debut in the ATP rankings on September 24, 2001.

He also got the chance to compete and learn in the qualifying round of the ATP 250 event at home in Mallorca. Rafa made his professional debut in the main draws at the Spain F10 Futures in Madrid on September 11, 2001.

According to some reports, he wasted no less than 13 match points against Guillermo Platel-Varas in the opening round! A week later, the youngster received a wildcard at the Sevilla Challenger and made his debut at that level. The young Spaniard ousts World No.

751 Israel Matos Gil 6-4, 6-4 to claim his first pro win and pick up the first five points of his career. On September 24, Nadal appeared in the ATP rankings for the first time, placing just outside the top-1000 as the third youngest player behind Ivan Puchkarov and Richard Gasquet.

Nadal notched up seven more Spain 7 Masters victories by the end of 2001 and finished the season just outside the top-800, putting an end to a stellar 2002. A fantastic youngster who worked on his game with passion and dedication broke the top 200 at 16!

Rafa won six out of nine futures he competed in that year, claiming the first ATP home win in Mallorca. He became one of ten 15-year-old players with an ATP win. Nadal was ready to show his skills at the Masters 1000 level in 2003, before his 17th birthday.

Reaching the third round in Monte Carlo and Hamburg, Rafa cracked the top-50 after the Umag semi-final, Wimbledon third round and two Challenger titles. The Spaniard won the first ATP title in August 2004 and helped his country win the Davis Cup title at the end of the season.

Rafa became the second strongest link in men’s tennis in 2005, conquering 11 ATP titles and lifting the trophy at Roland Garros. Nadal won no less than four Masters 1000 titles to follow Roger Federer’s pace and become his closest rival.

Rafa cracked the top-10 in April this year and has never left the elite group. As such, he has spent over 17 years among the selected players, with more to come in the coming seasons.

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