Lehecka ends Nadal’s dream in Madrid

The Czech advances to the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open

April 30, 2024

Jiri Lehecka defeats Rafael Nadal in the round of 16 of the Mutua Madrid Open.
By Staff

Jiri Lehecka has been too big an obstacle for Rafael Nadal. To be more precise: Jiri Lehecka and self-exhaustion combined. The Spaniard had already warned after playing more than three hours on Monday against the Argentine Pedro Cachín: a victory against the Czech on Tuesday would be a surprise for him. Your biggest goal of him? Being able to go out on the track and compete in his last year in Madrid.

And he has achieved it. Despite playing a fourth match in the same tournament for the first time since the 2022 US Open, the Spaniard has stood up to a rival 15 years younger, who ended up winning the duel with sets of 7-5, 6-4 in two hours of play.

The No. 30 in the PIF ATP Rankings, under the gaze of his coach Tomas Berdych – a continuous rival of Nadal himself until a few years ago – knew how to take advantage of the wear and tear suffered by the five-time tournament champion, who had not played a match since Madrid 2022. a day after exceeding one of more than three hours.

The Czech was patient in moving the 37-year-old left-hander around the court and wearing him down at each point. His solidity from deep was key in his strategy of lengthening some rallies and creating places to hurt aggressively. Furthermore, he remained calm when the local team was close to unbalancing the score, especially in the opening set.

Moments such as saving a break point at 3-4 and remaining focused by going from 40/0 to 40/40 when serving at 4-5, progressively dampened the enthusiasm of the public, key to the three victories of the Balearic Islands to reach this round. The second set was more about holding on to preserve the advantage they generated with their break in the initial game.

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And although he missed three break points at 1-1, this year’s champion in Adelaide did not get dizzy on the way to victory and the first quarterfinal of his career in an ATP Masters 1000 on clay. This result allows him to rise to No. 26 in the live rankings. Now against Daniil Medvedev he will seek his first semifinal in a tournament of this category.

This is also how Nadal’s last participation in this event ends. “Although my career has not ended, it is true that here in Madrid it will be the last time I will be there. For me it has been a gift that you have given me, during these 21 years. Even more important than a Grand Slam that I have won”

“It’s incredible to share the court with such a legendary player,” said Lehecka. “It’s a dream come true. I always wanted this to happen. I am very grateful for achieving such a great moment. I wish all the best for Rafa. It’s a little bittersweet to have such a beautiful victory in front of all these people who cheered him on. The energy was incredible.”


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