Now well into the 2021 tennis season, the King of Clay Rafael Nadal has looked like a shadow of himself. After early ousters from the Australian Open and the Monte Carlo Masters, Rafa found himself in a spot of bother as he took on Belarus' Ilya Ivashka in Round 2 of the ongoing Barcelona Open 2021. While not impossible, it is highly unusual for the Spaniard to drop sets so early in his clay-court campaign and even more so against a player ranked this low, causing some worry among his fans.
After starting his year with a quarter-final defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal seems to have failed to adapt to even his surface of choice — clay. Whether because of the long COVID-induced breaks or the back injury that has been plaguing him since the start of the season or simply some exquisite playing from the Belarusian, Nadal's form has become somewhat of a concern for his fans. An 11-time winner at Monte Carlo, Rafa looked set to take the title for a record 12th time in the principality before falling prematurely to Russian wildcard Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinal.
Playing his first match in Barcelona, Nadal once again gave his supporters the jitters as he chalked up a shocking first-set loss to the 111th ranked Ilya Ivashka. Serving just one ace to Ivashka's six and going two breaks down in Set 1, Nadal finished the set with an astoundingly high rate of errors. While he did manage to recover from the 3-6 break with an elegant and far more characteristic 6-2, 6-4 win, Nadal's loss spurred a number of memes on social media. The top seed at the tournament, Nadal will now take on Japanese legend Kei Nishikori in Round 3.
Rafa lost a set in Barcelona to Ilya Ivashka?! This is starting to look like a worry for Rafa fans.— Rorski (@Rorski77) April 21, 2021
Wow! Some takes a set off Rafa! Eyebrows raised !!!— TRV (@mailtrv) April 21, 2021
I'm very curious what's going on with Nadal— Josh Gross (@josh3302) April 21, 2021
It could be possible he's not over the back spasms from Melbourne, in which case would be a very real cause for concern
Then again, if he weren't 100%, I tend to believe he'd rest until Roland Garros... Could he really be falling off?
After winning his 20th Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2020, Rafael Nadal joined long-time rival Roger Federer at the top of the ATP's list of 'Most Grand Slam titles'. Having crashed out of the Australian Open — where he was vying for a double career Grand Slam — the Rafael Nadal French Open campaign is set to get underway (tentatively) in May this year. If successful, it will be Nadal's 14th title at the tournament.
As of now, there is no information on the Nadal vs Nishikori live telecast channel in India. However, fans can watch the match, and the rest of the Barcelona Open 2021 live in India on TennisTV. Fans in India can also follow the live scores for the Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori match on the websites and social media pages of the ATP and the Barcelona Open.