Rafael Nadal emerged as the kid to watch in 2003, reaching the third round of the Masters 1000 titles in Monte Carlo and Hamburg after reaching four Challenger finals in the first few months.
Nadal established himself as a top-100 player by winning two matches at Wimbledon, giving him a lift heading into the second half of the season.
In July, the 17-year-old got to the semi-finals on his favourite clay in Umag before missing a few weeks due to injury.
In New York, Nadal won the US Open and advanced to the second round. He was defeated by Younes El Aynaoui 7-6, 6-3, 7-6 after a gruelling two hours and 43 minutes.
Despite a valiant attempt, the youngster fended off nine of twelve break chances. He twice stole the opponent’s service and fell short in the decisive stages to lose in straight sets.
Nadal battled back from a break down in sets one and three, reaching 6-6 in both tie breaks. He lost the next two points, allowing the Moroccan to advance to the final 32.
What did Nadal say?
“I was serving pretty well and was unlucky on a few balls when I had a chance to bring momentum to my side.
“I returned pretty well, but his serve proved to be too tough in the end. It’s crucial to have good serve on these fast courts, and that made the difference today.
“The previous encounter we played was similar to this one, even though it was on clay.
“I played a bit better than the last time we shared the court, but it was not enough today.
“I’m a fighter, and I fight all the time, even at 5-2 down in the third set.
“I bounced back and levelled the score to reach a tie break where I had my chances, missing that shot at 6-6 and losing in straights, although I gave my best to prolong the encounter.
“I wanted to play to his forehand at 6-6 in the third set tie break, which was more difficult.
“I should have played to his backhand like I had been doing on other points; still, it did not make that much of a difference,” Rafael Nadal said as reported in PostXNews.