Definitely defeat to Andrey Rublev in the Monte Carlo rooms they have disrupted the preparation of Rafael Nadal for clay, carried out with care and intensity at the Manacor academy. He arrived in Barcelona underlining that “after the defeats, days of doubts come”, which he did not dissipate because he achieved the minimum objective in his debut Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell-68 Conde de Godó Trophy, which was victory, but without the characteristic tennis of the king of clay.
Rafa Nadal, eleven times champion of the tournament, 34 years old and world No. 3, had to come back against a rival from the previous phase, the Belarusian Ilya Ivashka (27 years old and 111th ATP), because he did not reencounter his game, which forced him to suffer more than necessary. He won 3-6, 6-2 and 6-4 in 2h.20 ‘.
This Thursday he will face another opportunity to raise the bar. He will need it, as he will face the two-time Japanese champion Kei nishikori or the chilean Cristian Garin. Rafa Nadal often comments that he is not an athlete who goes from 0 to 100, neither in good moments nor in bad. More of a diesel engine, he will continue fighting to rediscover the positive feelings.
It didn’t help that his return to Rafa Nadal court, due to the pandemic closed in 2020 and with reduced size and capacity in 2021 (maximum of 1,000 fans), he began by delivering the serve, committing a couple of double faults and some unforced errors that made him twist his face. He conceded a second ‘break’ to close the initial set in a bad way.
Without the sharp shots, Nadal drew on his competitive nature, a sixth sense of survival based on attitude and experience. With 126 sets won and only 12 lost In sixteen participations, he has multiple resources to defeat an opponent more on a fast track and somewhat surprised by what was happening.
Dull but with application, Nadal chewed the game, one gray day, to give himself another chance in the next round. He signed his 62nd victory in 66 games at Godó. It has a lot of room for improvement. He repeated the start of 2019, when he delivered the first set against the Argentine Leo Mayer, then reaching the semifinals, when he closed the road Dominic Thiem. At that time Rafa was going through a period of low spirits. It is not the current case, but it needs to let go, eliminate the ghosts that unexpectedly appeared in Monaco.
His record against opponents from the previous phase on the ground remains intact: 39-0. He hasn’t lost since 2004 to an opponent outside the top-100, for a favorable 52-1 aggregate. The one was put by the French Olivier Mutis in 2004.
It was important to save this game in any way
At the foot of the track, interviewed by Àlex CorretjaNadal pointed out that “it is circumstantial that the rival is outside the top hundred, I think he has played at a high level. As I said, there are always days of doubts and you have to recover after a defeat in which I did things wrong. I have gone from less to more, I am aware that it is a daily job and it was important to save this game in any way. I have trained better than I have played but tomorrow I will have another opportunity to improve ”.
“This energy from the public is a very important incentive for us. For the young people it is all newer but for us, so much tempo touring, it is vital ”, he added.