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When did Monte Carlo meet its prince? Some might think that it was when Rafa claimed his first crown in Monte Carlo, but in fact it was not on that day.

 

It was Wednesday 16 April 2003, the day that bore witness to the official presentation of Rafa Nadal to the Principality. At just 16 years of age, Rafa showed that he was capable of victory against all odds and that night he beat his fellow Spaniard Albert Costa, then the world number 7 and the defending French Open champion.

 

His road to Monte Carlo was surprising. It was just his second experience in an ATP Tour tournament and the first in a Masters 1000 event. By coming through the qualifying rounds against the Austrian Werner Eschauer (6-2, 6-2) and Russian player Andrei Stoliarov (6-1, 6-3), he had earned himself a direct ticket to the main draw. In his opener he cruised passed the Slovakian No. 49 in the ATP Rankings, Karol Kucera, (6-1, 6-2) but the battle with Costa would be a huge challenge.

 

In two hours of second-round play, Rafa was able to see off a veteran of the circuit who was considered a member of the elite. The 7-5, 6-3 result left Costa perplexed and after his defeat, at the net, he was quick to praise the exhibition he had witnessed from the other side of the court. “Congratulations, man. Good luck!”, said the Catalan as they shook hands, Nadal timidly replied “gràcies”.

 

I still don’t believe it, but I can say that it was a great match and that I’m very proud of my victory”, said the young star minutes later in the press room.

 

After beating Albert, and at just 16 years of age, Rafa could boast to having a match record of 3-1 on the professional tour, as well as having won himself a place among the top 100. “I played with a lot of respect at first and in the first games I slipped to 2-0 and 3-1, but then I made very few mistakes, I played very aggressively and I was able to come back”, came his analysis of the second-round match.

 

 

"I’m very happy because I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ve worked very hard and now I do have to believe it", ended Nadal after writing the first golden page of his Monte Carlo legacy. It was then that we had our first glance of the love-affair he has had with the clay of Monte-Carlo Country Club throughout his career.

 

Of course, the third-round 6-7(3), 2-6 defeat to the Argentine Guillermo Coria -who would go on to be a finalist that year- did nothing to blemish the image of a boy who had already played like a man. A prince destined to be the King in Monte Carlo.

 

Rafa Nadal’s Monegasque trophies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018 can be found at the Rafa Nadal Museum Xperience in the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar.

 

A few statistics on Rafa in Monte Carlo (Source: ATPtour.com):

 


- By beating Kei Nishikori in the Monte Carlo final in 2018, Nadal became the first player in the Open Era to win the same tournament 11 times. He would later claim the same number of tournaments in Barcelona and at the French Open.

- Nadal won 46 matches in a row in Monte Carlo between 2005 and 2013, a record for consecutive victories at the same tournament.

- Nadal did not lose a single set in 5 of his 11 titles at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

- Nadal has not lost matches against Roger Federer (3-0), Andy Murray (3-0), Stan Wawrinka (2-0) or Dominic Thiem (2-0) in Monte Carlo.

- Between 2006 and 2008, Nadal beat Federer in three consecutive finals in Monte Carlo, winning seven of the eight sets he played against the Swiss.

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