Barcelona | Nadal Plays; Alcaraz withdraws: Evans loses

Opening day in Barcelona was abuzz with assorted speculation as to whether Rafa Nadal, would or would not be participating. His name appeared in the draw, but he had pulled out of Monte Carlo having earlier missed Indian Wells and was yet to declare himself fully fit.

For me it's a gift to be able to be here in Barcelona, I will treat it as my last year [here] and I want to enjoy every moment Rafa Nadal

The news that a press conference had been called on the eve of his first match didn’t allay any of the rumours until the great Spaniard himself, a 12-time winner of the ATP 500 event, took to the stage and confirmed he would be facing Italy’s Flavio Cobelli on Tuesday afternoon.

“I came here a bit on a last-minute decision, not knowing if I could play,” Nadal said.

“But tomorrow I’ll be on the court.

He added: “For me it’s a gift to be able to be here in Barcelona, I will treat it as my last year [here] and I want to enjoy every moment.”

Nadal hasn’t played since the Brisbane last January due to injury and has subsequently had to withdraw from a host of big tournaments including the Australian Open.

During his career he has dominated the clay court circuit so it would certainly have been a great shame if he had missed playing on his favourite surface during his last year on the circuit.

The injury he has battled with most recently is a muscle tear on his troublesome hip and his expectations are not high as he tries to get match fit for the Big One in his life, the French Open which starts late May.

Carlos Alcaraz withdraws as a precaution

Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images)

Nadal’s confirmation is a positive note for the Barcelona organisers but on the deficit side, Carlos Alcaraz, the world No.3 and defending champion, has pulled out.

The 20-year-old has been struggling with a right forearm problem and was forced to skip Monte Carlo and during recent training in Barcelona, complained that he couldn’t strike the ball with his usual power.

Reliable Spanish sources reveal that the withdrawal was more a precautionary decision to ensure he is truly fit for the French Open and his participation in the Madrid Masters next week, where he is also the defending champion, could be said to also now be doubtful.

Brandon Nakashima eliminated the British No.3

(Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Meanwhile a few of the opening round matches were played including Dan Evans who has slipped to 49 in the world, and unfortunately, is still finding it difficult to get his season going in the right direction.

Clay isn’t his favourite surface and no doubt, the grass court season couldn’t come round fast enough for the 33-year-old Brummie, as he crashed out of Barcelona in straight sets to Brandon Nakashima.

He was beaten 7-6(5) 6-2 by the 22-year-old American in two-hours and 9-minutes in a match where he was broken right at the start.

Though Evans responded strongly and broke Nakashima in the ninth game when serving for the set, he could not maintain that momentum in the subsequent tiebreak.

The pair held serve for 2-2 in the second set but Nakashima’s pressure brought him a double break and he required just one match point to set up a second-round showdown with Andrey Rublev, the second seed.

Dan Evans couldn't find an answer

(Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images)

Evan’s dismissal leaves Cameron Norrie as the sole British representative and, seeded 12, he has a first round bye. He will however face the French qualifier Harold Mayot who secured his second- round place with 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3 victory over Argentina’s Pedro Cachin, on Tuesday.



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