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Rafael Nadal saves four match points en route to a final-set tie-break win against David Goffin on Thursday in Madrid.

Nadal: 'Enjoy The Suffering'

Spaniard reflects on thrilling win against Goffin at La Caja Magica

Rafael Nadal might need time to find his best form after missing six weeks due to a stress fracture in his ribs. But on Thursday at the Mutua Madrid Open, the Spaniard showed his competitive spirit is as strong as ever.

The third seed saved four match points before clawing past David Goffin in a final-set tie-break. Nadal embraced the adversity, and was rewarded.

“At the end of the day you're suffering in the match. I always said it many, many times. You have to learn how to live with these kind of moments, and also to enjoy this kind of suffering,” Nadal said. “It's what we work for, for thrilling moments.”

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Nadal was on the verge of a straight-sets victory against the Belgian before the match got complicated. Instead of walking out of Manolo Santana Stadium with a relatively stress-free triumph, the Spaniard needed to battle for three hours and 10 minutes to advance.

“I didn't have a lot of preparation, and we have to see how I'm able to wake up tomorrow after practically two months without any preparation,” Nadal said. “We have to be ready tomorrow, being ready to accept that tomorrow things may not be easy. But I am happy with the victory. [It] gives me an opportunity to play another day.”

Since arriving in Madrid, Nadal has made clear that he has not been able to work much on his game during his time away. With that has come the understanding that he will not immediately be at his very best. He revealed a few key hurdles to overcome.

“Mobility, stability in terms of [my] game, and of course adapting the body again. It’s not the same coming back from injuries when you are 20 or 19 [compared to] when you are almost 36,” Nadal said. “When you get injured, of course first thing is [to] recover [from] your injury, but then to put the machine [on] again.

“Working is not that easy, because when you start again, you have pains, pains in different places, so you need to manage them. You need to manage the way that you practise, the amount of work that you can or you can't do.”

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It helped to have screaming fans at the Caja Magica urging Nadal on after every point. The lefty rarely — if ever — needs extra motivation, but the Spanish crowd helped push him over the line.

“10,000, 12,000 people, they have a key impact in the decisive moments, because they always give you that extra punch. In those moments, you try to seek your final goal. In that regard, they are always there,” Nadal said. “Sometimes I have let them down maybe, but where I'm not going to let them down is I'm trying. I'm always going to try as hard as possible.”

Next up for Nadal will be countryman Carlos Alcaraz in a blockbuster showdown or Briton Cameron Norrie. No matter who stands across the net, the 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion is ready to give his home fans another thrill.

“I really appreciate being here, playing in front of my people, even though things are not perfect [with my] tennis,” said Nadal, who is No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. “The match was there on the line… I enjoy playing in front of my people, seeing the support that I receive. For me, it's a present at this age to have the opportunity to continue competing and competing well, especially here at home.”

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