De Minaur ends Nadal’s Barcelona return

Aussie next faces Fils
April 17, 2024
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Alex de Minaur is seeded fourth at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. By ATP Staff

Alex de Minaur spoiled Rafael Nadal’s comeback week on Wednesday, when he defeated the Spaniard 7-5, 6-1 at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

The fourth seed produced brick wall consistency and displayed flashy quickness to freely guard the entire court throughout the one-hour, 52-minute match, improving to 2-3 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with the 12-time Barcelona champion.

De Minaur tested Nadal's deep court position and fitness level with several drop shots that the former No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings was unable to chase down. After a highly contested first set, the Australian built upon his momentum, creating a double break lead. He did not drop a point behind his first delivery in the second set, according to Infosys ATP Stats.

“I think about the only thing I might have on Rafa on clay is physicality at this stage of his career," De Minaur said. "I decided to try and make the rallies quite physical and long, use my speed to my advantage. It’s never easy against him."

The World No. 11 in the PIF ATP Rankings jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Nadal raised his level and backhand intensity, crushing a winner off that wing to hold for 4-3 and capture his third consecutive game.

Nadal let slip a break point at 4-3 that would have given him the chance to serve for the set. But De Minaur held his ground, maintaining an aggressive court position to win 13 of the final 16 points in the 67-minute first set.

After dropping the opening game of the second set, the 25-year-old tallied six straight games to set a third-round meeting with 16th seed Arthur Fils, a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 winner against German Daniel Altmaier.

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“When the draw came out, I probably wasn’t too keen on playing Rafa, but I turned my attitude around and looked at it like a huge opportunity and a once in a lifetime opportunity,” De Minaur said. “I’m extremely happy that I was able to get the win.

“I can probably say that I’m very, very fortunate that I didn’t play Rafa a couple years earlier on the clay. It would have been very, very different result. An amazing experience and we move on. It’s been a great year.”

Nadal was playing his second tournament of 2024 and first since January when he was a quarter-finalist at the ATP 250 in Brisbane. The 92-time tour-level titlist defeated Flavio Cobolli in the opening round before falling to De Minaur. Nadal boasts a 67-5 match record across 17 appearances in Barcelona, where he first won the title in 2005 and most recently triumphed in 2021.

A semi-finalist in Barcelona two years ago, De Minaur became the first Australian to beat Nadal on clay. The former No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings was aiming to become the oldest player (37) to reach the third round in Barcelona tournament history (Open Era) and record his first Top 20 win since November 2022.

Players to beat Nadal in Barcelona

Year Player Round Score
2024 Alex de Minaur R2 7-5, 6-1
2019 Dominic Thiem SFs 6-4, 6-4
2015 Fabio Fognini R3 6-4, 7-6(6)
2014 Nicolas Almagro QFs 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4
2003 Alex Corretja R2 3-6, 6-2, 6-1

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