Rafael Nadal Wins On Injury Comeback At Barcelona Open


Rafael Nadal made light work of Flavio Cobolli in his triumphant return from injury at the Barcelona Open on Tuesday. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had not played an ATP Tour match since January, but reached the second round by defeating the Italian 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 25 minutes. The 37-year-old Nadal was able to play on clay for the first time since winning the French Open in 2022 and showed glimpses of his usual brilliance in a solid performance.

“It was a good start – you can't get rid of doubts in a day when you return, above all, on a physical level,” Nadal told TVE.

“It was a good first round as far as it went. He made mistakes and I think I played the game I needed to play.”

Nadal, who has won a record 14 times at Roland Garros, is looking forward to playing there in May in what he hopes will be the final year of his professional career. The clay court king, who has been injury-free for most of 2023, will face Alex de Minaur on Wednesday after defeating Koboli.

“It will be at such a fast pace that I don't know if I'll be able to keep up, but I'll try,” Nadal said of facing 11th-ranked De Minaur.

Nadal regained his rhythm after trailing 30-0 after a double fault, with Cobolli providing a scare with rousing support for the Spaniard on the court bearing his name.

Nadal converted his third break point in the fourth game to lead 3–1, while Coboli saved four more break points to trail 4–2. The 12-time Barcelona Open winner took the set again in 43 minutes, clenching his fists in celebration.

Cobolli broke Nadal 2–0 with two more unforced errors in the second set, but eventually fought back by putting some pressure on Nadal's serve in the third game. However, after Coboli's third double fault, Nadal again took a 3–1 lead and won.

The Spaniard did not hit any aces and his serve was effective but not explosive. “I've been months without serving, (and) although I'm very excited to play here and do my best, I'm not going to go crazy with serving,” Nadal said.

“I have to serve with caution that the moment I am dictating… there are some moments in which I feel more free and some moments in which I am more careful.”

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