HomeTennisRafael Nadal faces up to tough question after emotional night

Rafael Nadal faces up to tough question after emotional night


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Rafael Nadal is ready to answer the question put forward by the Madrid Open draw after making his way through the first round to book a tough rematch with Australian star Alex de Minaur.

De Minaur claimed victory over the King of Clay at last week’s Barcelona Open and their latest meeting will come on Saturday at the Madrid Open.

Nadal warmed up for the encounter with a ruthless 6-1 6-0 victory that dished out a brutal 64-minute lesson to 16-year-old American wildcard Darwin Blanch.

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The mismatch featured the largest age gap — 21 years and 117 days — in the history of ATP Masters 1000 matches.

And the result handed de Minaur the chance to achieve what would have once been thought of as mission impossible — knocking out Nadal from two Spanish clay-court tournaments in successive weeks.

Nadal, who just two days ago forecast missing out on his last French Open before retiring later this year, was quick to look ahead to a much less forgiving encounter against de Minaur.

The Spaniard offered a faint smile when asked about taking on the Aussie who ended his comeback bid 7-5 6-1 last week.

“It’s a good match for me to play against Alex and to keep improving things,” Nadal said in Madrid.

“Last week I was able to play one very competitive set then in the second I had to give up. So let’s see in two days how far I can go and just try to enjoy it again.”

Nadal had similarly won his first-round match in Barcelona before being taken down by de Minaur.

In Madrid, he is savouring his return to the ‘Caja Magica’ — the Magic Box — arena one final time before he hangs up his racquet.

“Great feelings. Playing here has always been a pleasure, the huge support is difficult to describe in words,” Nadal said.

“It’s emotional feelings but at the same time I am a passionate person with a stable personality, just enjoying but just trying to be focused on what I need to be and then see how far I can go in terms of pushing my physical performance.”

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The match with Blanch came nearly 20 years on from Nadal’s debut at the Madrid tournament as a 17-year-old, by which point he had already won matches at Wimbledon and the US Open.

“I think today I played against an opponent with a great future in front of him,” Nadal said of Blanch.

“I just tried to be there, be solid all the time without taking a lot of risks.

“It worked well. I’m happy to be through and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

De Minaur and Jordan Thompson, who both enjoyed first-round byes, will be joined by another Sydneysider in the second round after Max Purcell enjoyed a fine comeback win over American Marcos Giron 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) on Thursday.

It was a tense affair for Purcell with the world No.80 rewarded for perhaps being the more daring and ambitious of the evenly matched pair when it came to the final-set tiebreak.

Purcell, who had been robbed by some bad luck late in the set, finally got a lucky break of his own at the beginning of that tiebreak when his forehand into the net plopped apologetically off the cord and over for a winner that set him on the road to victory in just over two hours.

He’ll face another American in 25th seed Sebastian Korda in the next round.

Hopes of more Australian interest in the second round were scuppered when Chris O’Connell went down to Matteo Arnaldi in straight sets.

– with AAP

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