Barcelona | De Minaur ends Nadal return.

Rafa Nadal’s comeback at the Barcelona Open has been cut short by Alex de Minaur but as is his nature, he went down fighting.

I decided to try and make the rallies quite physical and long, use my speed to my advantage. It’s never easy against him Alex de Minaur

The 37-year-old Spaniard who has won the title at the capital of Catalonia 12 times, hasn’t played there for the past two years as a result of various injury problems, but delighted his fans on Tuesday when he made his long awaited return to the sport in what is presumed is his last year as a professional player.

In his opening match he looked to be playing well within himself, no doubt trying to ease back as well as test his body. In that he was successful but his second-round opponent, the Australian ‘Demon’ seeded 4, was a step up from Italy’s Fabio Coboldi, and, using his renown speed about the court, he successively retrieved Nadal’s powerful ground-shots as well as using drops shots to help wear him down.

Nadal, who was playing in only his second tournament of the season plus the United Cup team event last January (when he also lost to Alex de Minaur), hit 11 winners but made 42 unforced errors as he lost 7-5 6-1 making it his earliest loss in Barcelona since his debut in 2003.

The Australian world No.11 has been one of the form players on the Tour this year and was determined not to let Nadal get a foothold by breaking his serve in the opening game.

Nadal nonetheless, rallied to get level at 3-3, unleashing his trademark backhand with a drilled cross-court winner past an outstretched De Minaur and two games later, was one point away from going 5-3 up! A fierce forehand winner from the Aussie prevented that.

De Minaur immediately stepped up his own game to finish the set by claiming 11 successive points and stamp his authority on the match.

Nadal didn’t give up hope as he continued to battle but never looked to get the better of his fleetfooted opponent as De Minaur moved 4-1 up in the second going on to wrap it all up in just under the two-hour mark.

“I think about the only thing I might have on Rafa on clay is physicality at this stage of his career,” De Minaur revealed. “I decided to try and make the rallies quite physical and long, use my speed to my advantage. It’s never easy against him.”

Alex de Minaur salutes Rafael Nadal after their match

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Despite his loss, Nadal was pleased that his body stood up to the pressure and knows he has to build up his fitness levels if he wants to make a real impression at the French Open and the Paris Olympics.

“At least, how things went, for me I had the chance to say goodbye here on court,” said Nadal who is acknowledging it could well be his last appearance as a player in Barcelona.

“That means a lot to me, because I probably felt one week ago that I was not able to play in this event. That would have been painful, so at least I played, I enjoyed the game, and now is the moment to keep going.

“Alex is a great player. In terms of tennis today, he was in better shape than me,” he acontinued. “He has really played at a very high level since the beginning of the season. I think he has made a very important step forward in his level of tennis. I’m just happy for him and I congratulate him for the level he played today.

“I didn’t practice a lot, so that encourages me to keep going. It tells me that, if I’m able to spend days on the Tour and keep practicing with the players, I really hope and believe that I can keep being competitive. If my body allows me to push the way that I need.

“I feel much more comfortable and happier today than one week and a half ago,” he added. “I was able to manage to play two matches, played against a great player. I was not very far, without a doubt. I feel myself, if I am able to keep practicing days on the Tour, and my body allows me to spend hours on court and have practices the way that I need.

“I hope to be competitive. I hope and believe I can be competitive in a few weeks,” Nadal concluded. “That’s the way that I need to proceed today, and to give me a chance to be ready at least to compete at Roland Garros.”

In other action the Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4 7-5 as he maintains his current run to seven wins on clay but a number of seeds have been eliminated including Borna Coric (15), Lorenzo Musetti (10), Ugo Humbert (6), Sebastian Baez (8), Nicolas Jarry (9) and Andrey Rublev (2).

The only remaining seeds are: Fabian Marozsan (17), Tsitsipas (5), De Minaur (4), Arthur Fils (16), Alejandro Davidovic Fokina (11),Jordan Thompson (14), Casper Ruud (3), Cameron Norrie (12) and Tomas Martin Etcheverry (13).

A great opportunity for a new name to appear on the Torneo Conde de Godo trophy in the absence of the defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and the serial winner Nadal.

Dominic Thiem (2019) and Kei Nishikori (2014 &15) are the last two non-Spaniards to have achieved that distinction in 19 years.



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