ATP

Rafael Nadal set to make return to clay at Barcelona Open

By Sports Desk April 15, 2024

Rafael Nadal will make his eagerly-anticipated return to clay on Tuesday after he confirmed his participation in the Barcelona Open and provided a further hint that 2024 will be his last on tour.

Nadal has been ravaged by injuries in recent years and announced last May his intention to retire at the conclusion of this season.

The farewell tour for the 22-time grand-slam champion has failed to go to plan though, after he had to pull out of the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury and subsequently missed ATP 1000 events in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo.

However, the 37-year-old will play at the Barcelona Open, where there is a court named after him, on Tuesday against Italian youngster Flavio Cobolli, which will represent his first professional tie on clay since his 2022 Roland Garros triumph.

“No, I can’t give you an injury update because the list is long and I just want to think about what can happen,” Nadal told a press conference in English.

“I can only tell you that today I feel myself, enough good to be on court tomorrow and that for me is so important.

“It means a lot to me to be able to play one more time here in Barcelona, a place that I have amazing success and a lot of unforgettable memories.

“So, I am just trying to enjoy every moment and I am excited about being on court in a professional tournament again, especially here at home.”

Nadal has won this tournament a record 12 times but has only managed three competitive matches in 2024.

He did recently take part in an exhibition with compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who will miss this week’s ATP 500 event due to a forearm injury.

Current world number 644 Nadal has battled with his fitness for several years and was on crutches a day after his last major victory at the French Open in 2022, which was followed by injury-hit appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open before he barely featured last year.

This appearance in Barcelona does at least raise the prospect that he could participate at Roland Garros next month and later this year when it hosts the tennis tournament for the Paris Olympics.

Asked if he could envisage such a painful journey, Nadal conceded: “Well, no but the day after Roland Garros I have been on crutches so that’s the truth.

 

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“In 2022 I cannot and I was not able to think about how long it would take me to be back playing in a clay-court tournament because at the time I was enjoying the title of Roland Garros and trying to be ready for the next event.

 

“That is what I have been doing my whole life. To think about what is going on day-by-day and just try to adapt to the situation, try to be able to improve under any circumstances to be a better player. That is what I did all my life and it worked well.

“Now I am in a different perspective of my tennis career, a different moment and I am trying to enjoy every moment.

“I was not able to spend a lot of days on tour over the last two years, so I just want to enjoy every day I am able to play with the guys on a professional level. That means a lot for me.”

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