‘Rafa Nadal wanted to be No. 1 even at the age of 16’ – says former Spanish player

Roberto Menendez is a retired Spanish player who was active between 1998-2018. Roberto never competed on the ATP Tour and embraced only ten Challenger matches, spending the entire career on the Futures circuit and competing in almost 200 encounters at that level. In 2018, Menendez was still active as a professional, alongside winning the 38th Young Seniors World Individual Championships title in Miami in October. In his interview on the ITF site, Menendez talked about his tennis journey and the will to compete at that age. Also, the Spaniard mentioned the match against the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal at Spain F20 Futures back in 2002.

The 16-year-old won that one 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the opening round before earning two more triumphs en route to the title. It was Nadal’s first complete season on the Futures circuit, battling against much more experienced rivals and finishing it on a high note after conquering six titles in under five months! Super talented Spaniard was already ranked in the top-200 at the end of 2002 and hungry for more in the following year. Menendez shared his memories about Nadal, saying that Rafa wanted to be world no. 1 even at such a young age, determined to fulfill his dreams and rule the tennis world, which he did less than six years later!

Roberto Menendez spoke about 16-year-old Rafael Nadal.

Nadal was ready to show his full potential on the ATP Tour in 2003, winning 14 matches and reaching the third round in Monte Carlo, Hamburg and Wimbledon, followed by the Umag semi-final. The youngster claimed two Challenger titles and finished the season inside the top-50. Two years later, Rafa became world no. 2 following the first Major crown in Paris and four Masters 1000 shields by his name, improving his game regularly and conquering the ATP throne in August 2008.

“I lost to him 6-4 in the third. About seven years ago, we did a funny interview on Spanish television with Rafa because they wanted to talk to two current No. 1’s in the world. When Rafa was 16, he told me that he won’t like to be just a top-10 player, but only No. 1 in the world. He was totally sure about his future,” Roberto Menendez said.

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