Grateful Nadal: No Barcelona farewell ‘would have been painful’

Record 12-time champion fell to De Minaur in likely last appearance at ATP 500
April 17, 2024
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after his second-round defeat to Alex de Minaur on Wednesday in Barcelona.
Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after his second-round defeat to Alex de Minaur on Wednesday in Barcelona. By ATP Staff

It was a bittersweet goodbye for Rafael Nadal on Wednesday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Yet it was a goodbye, nonetheless.

The Spaniard had been unsure whether he would be ready to compete this week at the ATP 500, but he ultimately took to court and won a match before falling to Alex de Minaur. While a player who is a record 12-time champion in Barcelona was never likely to be wholly satisfied with a second-round exit, Nadal was happy he had the chance to say farewell to the event in what he has hinted will be the final season of his ATP Tour career.

“At least, how things went, for me I had the chance to say goodbye here on court,” said Nadal after his loss to De Minaur. “That means a lot to me, because I probably felt one week ago that I was not able to play in this event. That would have been painful, so at least I played, I enjoyed the game, and now is the moment to keep going.”

Although he was unable to maintain full intensity on court in every moment of his first ATP Tour event since January, Nadal was pleased with how he matched De Minaur at times during the pair’s fifth Lexus ATP Head2Head clash. The Spaniard showed flashes of his old self in reclaiming a break in the first set, but the current No. 11 in the PIF ATP Rankings De Minaur proved too strong.

“Alex is a great player. In terms of tennis today, he was in better shape than me,” said Nadal. “He has really played at a very high level since the beginning of the season. I think he has made a very important step forward in his level of tennis. I’m just happy for him and I congratulate him for the level he played today.

“I didn’t practise a lot, so that [performance] encourages me to keep going. It tells me that, if I’m able to spend days on the Tour and keep practising with the players, I really hope and believe that I can keep being competitive. If my body allows me to push the way that I need.”

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Nadal may not have been able to raise his best in Barcelona but, in terms of his comeback, he is positive about the impact of his first-round win against Flavio Cobolli and the De Minaur loss.

“I feel much more comfortable and happier today than one week and a half ago,” he said. “I was able to manage to play two matches, played against a great player. I was not very far [away], without a doubt. I feel myself, if I am able to keep practising days on the Tour, and my body allows me to spend hours on court and have practices the way that I need.

“I hope to be competitive. I hope and believe I can be competitive in a few weeks,” said the Spaniard. “That’s the way that I need to proceed today, and to give me a chance to be ready at least to compete at Roland Garros.”

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