Rafael Nadal’s comeback ends in second-round defeat by Alex de Minaur

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Rafael Nadal’s comeback effort ended on Wednesday with a second-round loss to the No 4 seed Alex de Minaur at the Barcelona Open.

Competing for the first time since early January, Nadal began his Spanish homecoming on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Italy’s Flavio Cobolli.

But the 12-time Barcelona champion ran out of steam against De Minaur, whose 7-5, 6-1 win in one hour, 52 minutes made him the first Australian to defeat Nadal on clay.

“I think about the only thing I might have on Rafa on clay is physicality at this stage of his career,” De Minaur said. “I decided to try and make the rallies quite physical and long, use my speed to my advantage. It’s never easy against him.”

The 37-year-old Nadal took a 5-4 lead in the first set before losing nine of the next 10 games. De Minaur broke Nadal’s serve five times in the match to improve to 2-3 head-to-head against the 22-times Grand Slam winner.

De Minaur won 75% (21 of 28) of the points on his first serve, compared to 58% (29 of 50) for Nadal. The ratios on the second serve were even more in De Minaur’s favour, 65% to 35%.

Nadal, who underwent hip surgery last June, sustained a “micro tear on a muscle” in a quarter-final loss to Jordan Thompson at the Brisbane International in January and later withdrew from the Australian Open.

Nadal’s career record at Barcelona fell to 67-5 in 17 appearances. He won the tournament for the first time in 2005 and most recently in 2021.

Source: theguardian.com

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