Rafa Nadal reignites tennis career with 'intelligent' move as Alex de Minaur falters

Nadal got revenge for his loss 10 days earlier in Madrid, sweeping past de Minaur in straight sets.

Alex de Minaur has missed out on a golden opportunity to beat Spanish tennis great Rafa Nadal on clay in successive tournaments, losing in straight sets in the Madrid Open. 37-year-old Nadal was blown away 10 days earlier in Barcelona but made changes to his game ahead of Madrid.

In front of a passionate crowd, Nadal cleverly adapted his game to reflect his current physical state without compromising what won him 22 grand slams. The Spaniard offered the flat-hitting de Minaur an array of high-looping, top-spinning shots that put the Aussie out of his groove.

As a result, de Minaur racked up an uncharacteristic 33 unforced errors in the match. In what has been billed as Nadal's farewell tour, the match was somewhat of a reawakening of Nadal, with his tactic changes paying dividends against a tough opponent.

Pictured Rafa Nadal
Rafa Nadal smartly changed his game to reflect his current physical state bombarding Alex de Minaur with an array of high-looping, top-spinning shots that put the Aussie off his game. Image: TennisTV/Getty

In just Nadal's fourth match since his latest three-month injury lay-off, de Minaur was fancied to repeat his Barcelona win and become the first man to knock him out of successive tournaments since Roger Federer did so in 2017. Even before the match, Nadal said he would be 'shocked' if he managed to beat de Minaur in their second-round match after progressing through the first round against World No.1028 Darwin Blanch.

In their Barcelona encounter, the Aussie's movement and relentless effort were too much for the clay court king, with his lack of match practice telling. But less than a fortnight later, Nadal made changes to his game that have fans believing he could still be a force at the upcoming French Open.

While fans were quick to proclaim he is back to his best, Nadal just as fast poured water on those suggestions. When asked if the win over de Minaur showed he was close to rediscovering his best, Nadal smiled and said: "No, not yet no, I need time.

"I'm still on an up, super-happy now to be able to be competitive against a great player like Alex for over two hours, it means a lot to me. The immediate future?

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Rafa Nadal at the Mutua Madrid Open, on April 27, 2024, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo By Jose Oliva/Europa Press via Getty Images)
The win marked Nadal's first victory over a top-20 player since 2022.

"I don't know, I really believe tennis hasn't been an issue the last two years, more the physical issues. If I'm able to play weeks in a row, I'll see how far I can go and how competitive I could be. But step by step, let's see how I recover really."


The match was tight in the first set, with Nadal taking victory in the tiebreak. The Spaniard took control of the tiebreaker early only for de Minaur to save four set points. However, Nadal regrouped and conjured up a prime Rafa point, finished off with an incredible backhand cross-court winner to earn a fifth set point and this time he wasn't to be denied.

From there, he earned a quick break in the second and de Minaur seemed lost for answers as Nadal mixed up his game. The win marked Nadal's first victory over a top-20 player since 2022.

It was also a bad afternoon for de Minaur's Australian counterparts, with Max Purcell going down 6-3 6-3 to 25th seed Sebastian Korda. While 32nd seed Jordan Thompson will be kicking himself after serving for the match against Russia's Pavel Kotov in the final set, only to succumb 5-7 6-4 7-5 after a three-and-a-quarter hour slog. There are no Australians left in the singles draws, with Nadal to next face Argentina's Pedro Cachin, who defeated Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-4.

with AAP