Would you be surprised if you beat Lehecka? Nadal explains his “yes”

The Spaniard will play his fourth game of the fortnight this Tuesday

April 29, 2024

Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal is a five-time champion in Madrid.
By Staff

Rafael Nadal’s challenge on Tuesday at the Mutua Madrid Open will be one of the most challenging of his entire career on the ATP Tour. In addition to the difficulty of competing without such a rhythm of competition and with the fear of repeating some of his physical discomforts, the Spaniard will be playing a fourth match in the same tournament for the first time since the 2022 US Open.

Not only that. The last time he played for more than three hours and had to take the court the next day was precisely in Madrid in 2022, when he beat David Goffin in the round of 16 before losing to Carlos Alcaraz on the next day. The same thing will happen now. A day after needing more than three hours to overcome the Argentine Pedro Cachín, he will have to collide this Tuesday with Jiri Lehecka, who is 15 years older than him.

“It has been a long time since I played a three-hour game. Right now I feel like I haven’t been hurt, but I don’t know how I’ll be tomorrow,” Nadal explained before answering if he would be surprised by winning this Tuesday against No. 30 in the PIF ATP Rankings. “Yes, especially after today’s game against a very high-level player,” he said without hesitation.

Some may think that, if he already beat Álex de Minaur, world No. 11, in the second round, Nadal will also be able to beat someone like Lehecka who is further down the rankings. The 37-year-old left-hander has another logic.

“Lehecka has a very powerful serve, he hits very hard from the back of the court. Álex is ranked higher than Lehecka, but Lehecka’s quality requires another step. Winning today didn’t surprise me that much. Doing it tomorrow would be one more step. But just competing would mean a lot. Let’s see, if I am competitive tomorrow for me it would be a success.”

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Another obstacle that Nadal will have will be the time in which he will play: last shift of the night session that begins at 8:00 p.m., local time. They will be different conditions than those he has faced during the event, in which he has won his three previous matches during the day. Surely everything will be slower, and perhaps more demanding when it comes to doing damage and shortening points, something key at this point in his career.

“It sounds good to me,” he said of the schedule. “It is not an hour that I would have liked, but given the circumstances and seeing what happened today, playing for more than three hours, I think the most prudent thing is to play at that hour. There were two options, and the tournament has chosen this one. “Playing at night, I have more hours to sleep, to work tomorrow.”

Beyond their duel on Tuesday, giving themselves the opportunity to compete for the fourth time this week is already a triumph in itself. “It will have been a very positive week no matter what happens tomorrow. Playing four games here is very good news,” he adds.

“Three and a half weeks ago in Manacor I was practically unable to move or serve well, losing to the academy kids every day. And now I’m playing with people on the circuit again. “I don’t know how I can continue, but I’m going step by step, and I’m happy with everything I’m experiencing.”


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