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Rafael Nadal’s projected path to final at 2024 Barcelona Open

Published at :April 16, 2024 at 8:56 PM
Modified at :April 16, 2024 at 8:56 PM
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(Courtesy : The Independent)

Shashank Tripathi

22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal will face Flavio Cobolli in his first match at Barcelona.

Tennis maestro Rafael Nadal recently announced that will be making his much-awaited return to the sport with the 2024 Barcelona Open after a prolonged hiatus. Nadal has entered the competition with a Protected ranking (PR) and his performance at the ATP 500 event will play a major role in understanding his current fitness and form.

Despite entering the tournament as an unseeded player, the 22-time Grand Slam winner is still one of the top contenders to win silverware. Nadal’s statistics at the Barcelona Open have been second to none. The Spaniard has a record of 66-4 in the ATP 500 event, where he has won 12 titles, which is the most by any player in the history of the competition. 

However, Nadal played his last game on the clay in June 2022 against Casper Ruud, where he successfully won his 14th French Open title. Since then, the 37-year-old has been entirely out of the action on clay due to a hip injury. He tried to make his comeback earlier this year at the Brisbane International but due to another fitness issue, he took another break. 

The 2024 Barcelona Open is expected to be the first step toward Nadal’s swansong. Hence, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Spaniard’s potential path to the final in the ATP 500 event:

Round of 64: Flavio Cobolli

Rafael Nadal will begin his 2024 Barcelona Open campaign against Italy’s Flavio Cobolli in the first round. The two tennis stars will be facing each other for the first time. At the 2024 Brisbane International, Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler in the initial rounds; however, he came up short against Jordan Thompson in the quarterfinals.

On the other side, Cobolli has lost three out of his last five matches across all competitions, as he also lost against India’s Sumit Nagal in the qualification round of the Monte Carlo Masters. Hence, looking at the fixture, the King of Clay seems like the stronger candidate.

Round of 32: Alex de Minaur

Alex de Minaur has won once against Nadal, as their head-to-head record stands at 3-1. The Australian tennis star is currently ranked 11th, and he also received a bye in the first round. However, at the Barcelona Open, it is set to be their first meeting on clay. At the Monte Carlo Masters, the Australian lost against world no. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Round of 16: Arthur Fils

Arthur Fils and Nadal haven’t faced each other on the ATP tour yet. Hence, they are set to play their first match on a surface which has been Nadal’s favourite. The 19-year-old has been in decent form recently; however, he still has to prove himself on clay, and by playing Nadal, he might get the biggest opportunity in the Round of 16 of the Barcelona Open.

Quarter-final: Ugo Humbert

Ugo Humbert will be another huge challenge ahead for Rafael Nadal at the Barcelona Open. However, the 37-year-old is expected to take the upper hand over Humbert in the quarterfinals. Again, the two tennis stars haven’t faced each other before, and their first meeting is expected to end in Nadal’s favour.

Semi-final: Stefanos Tsitsipas

The last meeting between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal also took place at the Barcelona Open in 2021. That match was won by Nadal and he also holds a 7-2 lead in his rivalry with Tsitsipas in the head-to-head records. Moreover, the Greek tennis star lauded Nadal in a recent press conference by stating that he is still the ultimate test on clay.

However, Tsitsipas, a three-time runner-up in Barcelona, is keen to win his first accolade in the Catalan city. Last week, he defeated Casper Ruud to win the Monte Carlo Masters in straight sets. Beating the World No. 7 would be a tough task for the Spaniard. However, Nadal is known for stellar comebacks.

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Final: Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud and Rafael Nadal have faced each other only twice and, on both occasions, the Spaniard has emerged victorious. In addition to that, Ruud has never won a set against Nadal. The Norwegian forward is most likely to reach the final because of his prowess on clay. Ruud also reached the final of Roland Garros in 2023 and 2024 and also finished as a runner-up against Tsitsipas last week at the Monte Carlo Masters.

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