Barcelona Open: Rafael Nadal eases past Flavio Cobolli on return

The 37-year-old was participating in just his second tournament in 15 months

By Web Desk
April 16, 2024
This marked his first match on clay since claiming his 14th French Open title in 2022.- ATP

Rafael Nadal made a successful return to the match court, clinching victory over Flavio Cobolli in the first round of the Barcelona Open.

The 37-year-old was playing only his second tournament in 15 months, having suffered another injury setback to his hip muscle during his comeback event in Brisbane in January.

Nadal confirmed his participation in the tournament, which he has won 12 times, only on Monday. However, he showed little sign of rust as he comfortably defeated the 21-year-old Italian Cobolli with a scoreline of 6-2, 6-3. This marked his first match on clay since securing his 14th French Open title in 2022.

Nadal received a hero’s welcome as he walked onto the court named in his honour. Although there were a few wayward forehands in the early stages, the former world number one proved too solid for Cobolli.

Cobolli appeared understandably nervous and made numerous errors, which significantly contributed to the scoreline. However, a major factor behind this was the pressure exerted from the opposite end of the court.

A setback occurred when Nadal, who is expected to retire at some point this season, played a subpar game, losing his serve for the first time in the third game of the second set. Nonetheless, having already broken Cobolli, he swiftly regained his advantage.

There were some vintage forehands from Nadal in the final stages and he clinched victory when Cobolli netted a final backhand, thrusting his fist into the air.

The home favourite faces a real test next, though, when he takes on in-form fourth seed Alex De Minaur.

Meanwhile, second seed Andrey Rublev destroyed his racket at the end of a 6-4 7-6 (6) defeat by Brandon Nakashima that continued his poor run of form.