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Published 09:36 IST, May 1st 2024

Rafael Nadal plans to play in Rome after a ‘positive’ week in likely his last Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal lost in straight sets to the 31st-ranked Jiri Lehecka in the fourth round at Madrid on Tuesday. But the Spaniard was feeling good about his progress following his latest injury layoff.

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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, center, waves to the crowd after losing a match against Jiri Lehecka, of Czech Republic, during the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid | Image: AP
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Rafael Nadal left Madrid feeling better about his fitness than he did when he arrived, and is now planning to play in Rome while continuing his preparations for the French Open.

Nadal lost in straight sets to the 31st-ranked Jiri Lehecka in the fourth round at Madrid on Tuesday. But the Spaniard was feeling good about his progress following his latest injury layoff.

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Nadal called it a “positive week” in every way, and said his body held up well.

“I was able to play four matches, a couple of tough matches,” Nadal said. “So very positive, winning three matches, playing four matches at the high level of tennis. I enjoyed a lot playing at home. I leave here with very positive energy.”

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Nadal arrived in Madrid pessimistic about his physical condition, and he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to play. He said he only did it because it was an emotional tournament for him.

The 37-year-old Nadal is playing in his final year on tour. He had already bid farewell to Barcelona, where he lost in the second round. The 22-time Grand Slam champion hadn’t played a tournament since Brisbane in January.

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“Today is unforgettable day in terms of saying ‘goodbye, Madrid,’” he said. “But my career keeps going, and I have my personal goals that I have got in the next couple of weeks, and I want to explore if I have any chance to achieve that.”

Nadal said Rome, where he won 10 titles and where the tournament starts May 8, was also emotional for him.

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“That’s another very special tournament in my career,” he said. “I dreamed to play all these tournaments that I had success one more time. I missed Monte Carlo unfortunately, that is one of the most special for me, but Rome is one of these ones that I enjoyed a lot playing there.”

In Madrid, Nadal defeated American teenager Darwin Blanch in the first round and 11th-ranked Alex de Minaur in the second , both in straight sets. He needed three sets to edge Pedro Cachin in the third round.

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“I want to play well there (in Rome). I want to be competitive,” he said. “I want to give myself a chance to play good tennis, and I’m gonna keep working hard to try to make that happen.”

Playing at the French Open, which begins May 26, is one of Nadal’s main goals during his farewell season. He has won the title at Roland Garros a record 14 times.

09:36 IST, May 1st 2024