‘It’s a joy’: Rafael Nadal returns to action in BarcelonaBreaking

April 15, 2024

Rafael Nadal said it will be “a joy” to return to action for the first time since January when he takes part in the Barcelona Open next week where he is a 12-time champion. The 22-time Grand Slam winner has played just once, in an exhibition match, since he felt a hip injury flare-up during a quarter-final defeat by Jordan Thompson in Brisbane on the eve of the Australian Open. “I’m happy to be here, of course, Barcelona is a place that has brought me a great deal of joy, and where I have spent periods of my life,” said Nadal at Saturday’s draw ceremony. Nadal will play 63rd-ranked Flavio Cobolli of Italy in his opening match. Nadal, who turns 38 in June, will be looking for a problem-free return as he builds towards seeking a record-extending 15th French Open title. The former world number one has seen his ranking slip to 646 after missing all of the 2023 season following the Australian Open. 

“Over the last two years I’ve had very few days on tour, so spending days here, seeing people, being able to practise with players is a joy,” added Nadal. “I’m keen to carry on. The tournament has some incredible players.” The 2022 and 2023 Barcelona champion Carlos Alcaraz will begin his clay-court campaign after missing the Monte Carlo Masters due to a right arm injury. World number three Alcaraz is the top seed and has a bye in the first round before facing either China’s Zhang Zhizhen or Luca Van Assche of France. Nadal has never played Cobolli, 16 years his junior. If he gets past him, he will face the tougher task of 11th-ranked Australian Alex de Minaur in the second round. There is the prospect of a tantalising semi-final meeting with Alcaraz on the centre court which now bears Nadal’s name. On Saturday afternoon, Nadal trained with sixth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia and appeared to move smoothly around the court.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan