Rafael Nadal’s Dominant Barcelona Return With 6-2,6-3 Victory Over Flavio Cobolli

Rafael Nadal secures a commanding victory over Flavio Cobolli in his triumphant return to the clay court scene at the Real Club Tenis de Barcelona-1899.

The 12-time event winner defeated Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-3, setting up a Tuesday second-round match.

Rafael Nadal’s Dominant Barcelona Return With 6-2,6-3 Victory Over Flavio Cobolli

Rafael Nadal hadn’t played on a clay court before Tuesday, having just celebrated his 14th victory at Roland Garros in 2022.

Therefore, tennis was perhaps appropriate that the much-awaited comeback of the 22-time major champion occurred on the court that bears his name, the Real Club Tenis de Barcelona-1899. At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Rafael Nadal advanced after defeating Flavio Cobolli 6-2, 6-3 in his first match in over a century.

The left-hander, who has won the championship twelve times, opened play inside Pista Rafa Nadal with substantially slower first and second serve speeds. After trailing 0-30 due to a double fault, Nadal won four straight games and settled into the match much more comfortably the following time.

Cobolli proved in the fourth game why the forehand is his favorite side, starting with a strong inside-out winner to reach deuce and ending with a curved crosscourt strike to shorten the court on the next point. After making adjustments, Nadal started hitting more rally balls to his opponent’s backhand. On his third break attempt, the Italian was unable to thread the needle with his two-hander, and Nadal took the lead 3-1.

Cobolli fought off four break opportunities to avoid falling behind 5-1, but he could not overcome his patchy hitting. With an unbalanced backhand crosscourt winner, Nadal denied him a game point, and the 21-year-old then missed back-to-back shots to close out the set. Of the 34 points that Nadal gained, 27 came from unintentional mistakes made by opponents.

With a winning forehand drop shot, the 37-year-old erased the only break point he faced and went on to win set two. With an aggressive forehand on the run down the line, Rafa turned defense into offensive to win the opening point against Cobolli’s serve. Nadal then let out a fist-pumping “Vamos!”

Soon after, Cobolli’s inside-out forehand landed just out, causing the returner to trail 0-2. This started a run of three straight games. After double-failing and sailing a long backhand to lose serve for the first time, Nadal handed the re-break over to the world No. 62 with a double fault of his own.

As he got closer to the finish line, Nadal recorded an encouraging 116 mph, matching his average speed from 2022 even though his first-serve percentage gradually decreased. With Cobolli holding at love, the home team’s favorite easily sealed the victory.

One of the most notable rivals of 2024 is waiting for him in the second round: Alex de Minaur, the No 4 seed.

Also Read: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal Reunite Ahead of Sunshine Double

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