Barcelona | Rafa is Back! Norrie pulls through; Rublev blows a gasquet!

The cry of ‘Rafa is Back’ could virtually be heard resounding around the Centre Court of the Real Club de Tenis which is named after him (Pista Rafa Nadal) in honour of the Spaniard, a 12-time champion of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

I enjoyed an unforgettable moment. I'm just having fun and I'm happy to start with a victory, without a doubt Rafa Nadal

Day three of the ATP 500 event witnessed the most unusual sight of packed stands which in itself must be a record for a first-round match but not surprising when a player of Rafa Nadal’s stature choses to make a comeback and compete at an event he hasn’t played due to injury for the past two years.

And each one of them will have been delighted to see their national hero back and on form as he produced a performance which, while well within himself, had flashes of brilliant tennis as he made light work of his hard-working Italian opponent, Flavio Coboldi.


Rafael Nadal puts on a show for his fans

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

The 37-year-old Mallorcan, owner of 22 Grand Slam titles confirmed his status as the ‘King of Clay’ by stamping his authority on Coboldi, the world No,62, during the opening set after a few nervy opening games.

The pair held serve for the first three games but then Nadal upped the ante slightly to pull 3-1 ahead with the first break of the match.

Even at this early stage Coboldi was starting to look for inspiration to combat the high kicking forehands. He managed to fend off four break points to hold for 2-4 but it proved only a temporary delay before he lost the first set 6-2 after 43-minutes.

Nadal kept up the momentum in the second to go 2-0 up only to momentarily lose his focus to allow Coboldi back in the next game but that proved to be the best he could do against the best clay court player in recent times.

Nadal brought the contest to an end after 85-minutes, 6-2 6-3 on his second match point when Coboldi netted a backhand off a Nadal powerful forehand.


Rafael Nadal raises a quiet first in celebration.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Speaking after the match after being asked how it felt to comeback, Nadal replied: “I have done that [come back from challenges] a lot of times in my career; it’s true that it gets more difficult when you are at an advanced age.

“I am going through tough moments, but at the same time, when I am able to be on the tour for a few days and practice with the guys and then compete a little bit, means a lot to me.

“It’s still enjoyable enough for me to keep doing it.”

Adding: “I enjoyed an unforgettable moment. I’m just having fun and I’m happy to start with a victory, without a doubt.”

His next match will be a tougher affair as he faces Alex de Minaur, the fourth seed and a quarter finalist at last week’s Monte Carlo Masters who is enjoying the best of seasons and broken into the top ten for the first time.

There were a few second-round matches played including Cameron Norrie’s meeting with the French qualifier Harold Mayot which ended abruptly after both players had pocketed a set.

The first went the Brit’s way 7-6(3) with Mayot levelling in the second 7-6(6) leaving the match to be decided in the third only for the Frenchman, who had earlier received some treatment to a groin injury, decided he had enough and retired allowing Norrie, the 12th seed, to progress into the third round,

Also through is Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry, seeded 13, who beat Nick Harot 7-5 6-2 but the second seed, Andrey Rublev, for the third successive time, was beaten in his opening match. On this occasion Brandon Nakashima, the American who had dispatched Britain’s No.3 Dan Evans in the first round, delivered the embarrassment by defeating him 6-4 7-6(6) at which point Rublev lost it, demolishing his racket with a series of violent blows on the baseline, in sheer frustration.

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Andrey Rublev couldn't hide his frustrations

(Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)


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