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Rafael Nadal advance at Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal advance at Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal ripped off his headband, raised his arms, and lapped up the applause. It was only a second-round victory, but given where Nadal had been only a few weeks before. When he couldn’t even go on the court, he could have been celebrating a trophy.

He had just defeated 11th-ranked Alex de Minaur 7-6 (6), 6-3 at the Madrid Open on Saturday. Avenging a straight-set setback to the Australian less than two weeks prior.

Nadal is no longer looking to add to his 92 victories, having been ravaged by injuries in recent years. The 37-year-old simply wants to play like Rafael Nadal, or as close as he can. So he is taking it game by game, assessing his efforts to prevent an injury that would almost certainly force his retirement, with the ultimate goal of competing once more at the French Open next month. Also read: Emma Raducanu suffers heavy first-round loss in Madrid

“I have been through some very difficult months when there were moments when I didn’t see the reason to continue, but I had the dream of experiencing feelings like this again and above all at home,” Nadal said in a statement. “It was incredible.”

The 22-time Grand Slam champion was cheered on by Spanish King Felipe VI, soccer great Zinedine Zidane, and a rowdy audience that packed the Caja Magica for what is expected to be the tennis legend’s final event in Spain. Nadal was playing only his fourth competitive match since his most recent injury absence in his last season. Also read: Andy Murray beats Weary Matteo Berrettini To Advance in Miami Open round two

De Minaur defeated Nadal just 11 days earlier in Barcelona. Where the Spaniard returned to the court for the first time in over three months. Nadal appeared considerably better this time around. However, Nadal stated that being prepared to compete at Roland Garros, with its more demanding five-set format, is another matter, particularly given the importance he places on the tournament, which he has won 14 times.

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