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A successful comeback for Rafael Nadal’s confidence in Barcelona: “I still enjoy it enough to keep doing it”

Rafael Nadal Barcelona
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What better place than the Rafael Nadal in Barcelona for Rafael Nadal to return to his favorite surface after almost two years: “To be able to compete means a lot to me”.

On the center court of the Conde de Godó Tournament, named after him, the man who won 12 times in Catalunya played his first match on clay after June 5, 2022, when he lifted his 14th Roland Garros trophy. He did it in a successfully, convincingly and emphatically way with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Italy’s Flavio Cobolli in less than an hour and a half of play.

A necessary dose of confidence in a year full of doubts, frustrated desires and contradictions. Because if Nadal dreams of Roland Garros, and even beyond Roland Garros, playing and winning the way he did at the ATP 500 in Barcelona was fundamental.

“I have tried (to return to competition after injuries) many times in my career. It’s getting tougher, being at an advanced age makes things even harder. I’ve had some bad moments, but I’ve managed to be on the tour for a few days and practiced with the other tennis players. Being able to be competitive means a lot to me. I still enjoy it enough to keep doing it,” Nadal said in the on-court interview with Tennis TV.

Nadal was conservative with his serve, but still very effective. He opted to serve at three-quarter speed and thus take care of his abs after he was forced to withdraw from Monte Carlo last week.

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Rafael Nadal celebrated his return to clay. He did it on the Court Rafael Nadal in Barcelona.

“Arrivederci, Flavio,” shouted a spectator when Nadal was about to serve with match point in favor. The former world number one disapproved the mock to his rival with a gesture of annoyance on his face and shaking his head. He apologized to Cobolli right before finishing to impose his own conditions. Except for a few off-timing shots, the Spaniard was a version of the player who has a 94% match winning rate in Barcelona. His correct mobility and fluency combined with the pressure imposed by his name (and that of the court): the 21-year-old Italian helped Nadal’s comeback with more than 40 unforced errors, showing nervousness for several moments.

Conclusion repeated, but always important to note: if the body does not put obstacles, Nadal on clay is a danger more than known, no matter how many matches he has played during the season.

The next obstacle is a much higher hurdle. Alex de Miñaur will surely push him to the limit, and if that happens, it will already be a win for the Spaniard. If he manages to compete feeling good, no matter what the scoreboard says, it will be a super important victory for Nadal.

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