Nadal: “I’m just left with having played”

The Spaniard reflects after his return in Barcelona

April 16, 2024

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By Staff

Rafael Nadal returned to compete at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and that was the most important news. If the face is the mirror of the soul, the Spaniard’s smile on the clay summarized the main objective of this Tuesday in Barcelona. The former world No. 1 felt like a player again, surrounded by the affection of his team and driven by his excitement at stepping onto the courts of the ATP Tour again.

“I’m happy,” Nadal acknowledged after defeating the Italian Flavio Cobolli in the first round of the tournament. “I have played very little in recent times. Playing is always a source of joy. Then, there are more conditions such as the fact of playing on a very important court in my career. It is the second tournament that I have won the most times and on top of that it is at home. The Royal Tennis Club Barcelona [1899] He welcomed me as a player many years ago, so it also has a special meaning for me to play for my club.”

With a range of ingredients surrounding a very special week, Nadal placed the simplest relief in the center of the target: holding the racket, stepping on the clay and being able to finish the match. An award that seems minuscule in the hands of a legend. A world, however, for a player who was barely able to compete in the last year and a half.

“I’m just left with having played, the rest is secondary,” defended the Spaniard. “Until the week is over, in whatever way, it is important to me that nothing happens. This is reality above anything else, to be totally honest. Although it is difficult, perhaps it is not the week to follow everything my heart tells me. “We are going to do things in the most logical way possible.”

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On that ladder of efforts that occupies his steps, Nadal climbed the first step containing his desires. The Mallorcan took just over an hour to defeat the world No. 62, testing his strikes from caution and his body with effort management.

“The fact that today’s game went like this is a positive thing, because it allows me to play again tomorrow. Depending on what kind of demands, I don’t know how my body can respond. We have to be realists. In the last year and a half I have played very little, let’s see how far I can go. I will try not to cross lines that are dangerous. If I look at where I was a week ago and where I am today, I see a major change. As far as possible I see myself as competitive to be able to continue playing, today for me it is the most important thing. A week or so ago this seemed very far away. In sport things change very quickly,” explained the man from Manacor.

“Although inside my head because of everything that has been my history in clay tournaments, you always have that small dream of aspiring for much, the reality today is different. I have to aspire to realistic things, the realistic thing is that I won a match today. Tomorrow I have the opportunity to play another game. I’m playing against a top-level player and I don’t know if I’m ready. For me it will be a test. Let’s see how I can manage everything to at least try to be competitive.”

‘Competitive’ is a word that is continually repeated in the reflections of Spaniards, focused on giving their best version whatever the circumstance.

“A week and a half ago it would have been a surprise to be competitive today. He was away due to many circumstances, of course physical ones. Continued physical issues lead to mental fatigue. But the last four days, in terms of training, I have felt more or less good. I have played with level players. I know that they are just training sessions but I haven’t felt too far away to be able to play,” explained the Spaniard, who prepared his debut in Barcelona by crossing blows with figures such as Andrey Rublev, world No. 5, or Alejandro Davidovich, Spanish No. 2.

“This way I go out to the game with a slight confidence that I can at least play, and play one on one. Then you win the game, and this is important for me, especially to play again tomorrow. My rival has helped me, he has made mistakes. I played the game I had to play. I was confident I could play at that level and for me it is not a big surprise to play at the level I have played. I don’t think it was a level that surprised me. It was a logical level, playing what I more or less know I control today. I think I played well on my backhand and with the forehand, being my first game, I played quite crosswise. I haven’t complicated my life much. I played the way I thought I could be enough to be competitive today. Tomorrow I need more.”

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This is how Nadal faces a return to the circuit that will not give him respite. De Minaur will be waiting for him on the other side of the net, a tennis player who has seen his best level in 2024, with his debut in the Top 10 and the biggest trophy of his career as endorsements in this same season. A challenge that Rafa accepts with a reality in mind.

“Tennis has never been the problem throughout my career. With my ups and downs, within what happens in the career of any athlete. When I have been physically well, I have not felt that I have lost ball speed or things that do not allow me to play. That has not been the case, there have been many other things that have prevented me from continuing to play. “This is my reality, I don’t think it was a tennis issue.”

Nadal never forgot to play tennis. If his body allows it, he has returned to prove it.


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