“I just can say thank you very much to all the people that helped me and all the people that in any moment of my life helped me to be where I am.”
Nadal’s first ATP victory came when he was 15 years old. He beat Ramon Delgado, a Paraguayan then ranked No. 81 in the world, in a first-round match at the Mallorca Open in 2002, a victory which netted him 15 ATP Rankings points and a cheque for $5,850.
Eighteen years, and almost $122 million in prize money, later Nadal is one of the most successful tennis players in history.
At the French Open last month, he equaled Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam victories.
Nadal’s first-round match was his first since claiming his record-extending 13th title at Roland Garros.
“I started the match in the worst way possible, especially against a big server like Feli,” said Nadal. “After that, I played under a lot of pressure the rest of the match, but I found a way.
“That’s the main thing … This victory is one that I am very proud of. The personal satisfaction sometimes is bigger when you win these matches than if you go on court and you win 6-3 6-3.”
Nadal will face Jordan Thompson in the next round, after the Australian rallied from a set and a break down to overcome Borna Coric 2-6 6-4 6-2.
While he has had so much success in Paris on clay courts, Nadal is aiming to win his first Paris Masters title.