Rafael Nadal Seals Comeback Triumph over Flavio Cobolli in Barcelona
Rafael Nadal during his press conference at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona in Spain. April 15, 2024. Photo credit: Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

Former world number one Rafael Nadal made a winning return to official competition, clinching a first-round triumph at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell over World No. 62 Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday.

On the court that bears his name, 12-time champion Rafael Nadal returned to official competition at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italian player Flavio Cobolli after one hour and 25 minutes on Tuesday.

I’m going through tough moments, but at the same time, when I’m able to be on tour for a few days and practice with the guys and then be able to compete a little bit, it means a lot to me,” he outlined after the encounter.

Adding: “Still enjoyable enough to keep going. I’m happy to start with a victory without a doubt.”

Having not played on tour since January, when he sustained a minor muscle tear while competing in Brisbane, his first competitive appearance after undergoing hip surgery in June 2023, the Spaniard hit the Pista Rafa Nadal in the ATP 500 held in Barcelona to play his first clay match in 681 days.

A packed stadium welcomed back the 22-time Grand Slam champion with a standing ovation, longing to watch their local hero in action for the first time in Barcelona since winning the title in 2021.

It was a nervous start for both players; Nadal hit unforced errors with his forehand while the World No. 62, making his debut at the event, tried to find his rhythm against the Manacor native.

In his 17th appearance at the event, the former world number one took one game at a time, moving well while building form and playing aggressively.

As the opener reached the fourth game, the Spaniard converted his first break point and held, earning a 4-1 lead.

Then, Cobolli, 21, resisted a lengthy game in which he saved four break points to hold, narrowing the gap to 2-4.

In his own terms, the 37-year-old went strength from strength, excelling with the quality of his shotmaking ahead of producing a double break to seal the first set 6-2 in 43 minutes.

Despite striking more winners than his opponent, 7 to 3, the young Italian committed 27 unforced errors to 12 from his adversary, which cost him high.

Cobolli raised his level in the second set, adding pressure on Nadal from the onset.

However, the 12-time Barcelona champion broke in the second game, but so did his rival.

Unrelenting, the king of clay maximized his chances, breaking twice following a double fault by the Florence native who challenged the former in intense exchanges.

Nonetheless, Nadal marched to wrap up the second set 6-3 in vintage mode, emerging victorious in his first singles match in 103 days.

He finished with eight winners and 22 unforced errors compared to 10 and 41 from Cobolli.

On Wednesday, he will meet World No. 11 Alex de Minaur, who fell to top seed Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals.

Nadal leads the Australian player 3-1 in their head-to-head series, having faced off the last time in 2023 during the Laver Cup round-robin.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

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