De Minaur Halts Nadal Comeback to Action in Barcelona
Alex de Minaur playing Rafael Nadal at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, Spain. April 17, 2024. Photo credit: Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

Fourth seed Alex de Minaur topples 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in straight sets, progressing to the next round on Tuesday.

Acapulco reigning champion Alex de Minaur topples home legend Rafael Nadal with a 7-5, 6-1 victory after one hour and 52 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, setting a meeting with Frenchman Arthur Fils or German Daniel Altmaier.

Assessing his performance, the match winner outlined: “I decided to try and make the rallies quite physical and long, use my speed to my advantage. It’s never easy against him.”

When the draw came out, I probably wasn’t too keen on playing Rafa, but I turned my attitude around and looked at it like a huge and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” De Minaur added.

I am extremely happy that I was able to win.”

For the second day in a row, a packed stadium cheered the home hero at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, contesting his second-rounder against the skillful Australian player.

A backhand error handed De Minaur the early break in the first set, an advantage he extended to 2-0 following two battles at deuce.

The fourth seed stepped up the pressure over Nadal, displaying his trademark speed to master his all-court coverage, imposing a challenging rhythm that forced his adversary to rally, saving a break point in the process to hold serve in the third game.

Nadal compensated for the issues on serve with his high-quality shot-making - highlighting his exquisite backhand crosscourt - holding his ground in lengthy baseline rallies.

As the Spaniard had previously explained during his press conference, he is not forcing his first set delivery, and it was no different across the contest against De Minaur.

Probably, I will be smart enough not to try to serve at my highest level today,” he asserted Monday.

I am not able to serve 100 percent free of problems. I didn’t have pain, honestly, today, but I didn’t serve much for the past two months. I’m just trying to do things the way I believe that [I should]. I’m just trying to push when I need to push if I can.”

A competitive opener saw the former world number one converting his first break point in the sixth game to level the score.

Nadal did not drop a single point on his way to back up the break, earning a 4-3 lead.

From there, the set went with serves until the Sydney-born notched a pivotal break point in the 11th game, inching ahead and holding to seal the opener 7-5 in 67 minutes.

The World No. 11 performance on the return made a massive difference, recording a return rate of 195 compared to his rival 120.

Neither player dominated on serve, tied as both won 67 percent of the first-serve points. However, De Minaur excelled on his second, earning 63 percent of the points to 33 from Nadal.

The 25-year-old kicked up a level to set off the second set. In all three of Nadal’s first serve games, the 8-time ATP titlist had chances to break, which he achieved in the third and fifth games to open a significant 4-1 advantage.

Covering all angles, the Aussie became a wall on the other side of the net while the Manacor native continued to lack pace with his first serve and depth.

Then, De Minaur broke in the seventh game to close out the set 6-1 and the match, advancing to the next round following a solid tennis display.

Regardless, the Spaniard’s fighting spirit, present from the get-go, saw him leaving his all on the court that bears his name, Pista Rafa Nadal, in what probably has been his last official match at the ATP 500 tournament.

The 12-time champion received a standing ovation from the crowd in Barcelona on his comeback week to official competition, contesting his first clay match in 681 days on Monday.

Ahead of his 17th appearance at the event, the first since winning the title in 2021, the 92-time ATP winner had not played on tour since January, when he sustained a minor muscle tear while playing in Brisbane, his first competitive showing after undergoing hip surgery in June 2023.

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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