APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Nadal: “Saturday is a chance to test myself”

Nadal’s first step at the Mutua Madrid Open was little more than a warm-up. The Spaniard only needed one hour to cruise past the young Darwin Blanch, giving himself the opportunity to enjoy another match in the Spanish capital. Without having had to push his body too hard, the Balearic Islander was in a pragmatic mood at his post-match press conference, arguing that logic will show him the say.

“I played a player who has good potential but who made a lot of errors, he made it easy for me”, explained the Mallorcan. “With all due respect to a player who has a great future ahead of him, I think he’s a player who makes mistakes. The match lasted one hour”.

In a week of endless questions about his medium-term future, the Spaniard has managed to keep his feet on the ground. Nadal is determined to evaluate every small daily improvement, he is doing everything in his power to give himself the best opportunity. However, the sweat and tears will be for nothing if he is unable to perform going forward. The fact that his opener was such a straightforward affair has done nothing to change his perspective.

“My view on Paris will not change. I’m not going to make a decision here, I’ll make it after Rome”, he explained. “I’m going to lay out my own path. If I make it, I make it; if I don’t, I don’t. I’ll play in Paris if I feel I can compete. I don’t mean win, I mean go out on court with a feeling that I can give my all and compete. I think it’s logical that after everything I have done in Paris, that I don’t want to feel I can’t on a court that’s so important to me. It was a comfortable match and I did what I had to do. Let’s see what happens”.

The Spaniard is on a road replete with challenges and one of the biggest will come on Saturday when he faces Australia’s Alex de Minaur for the second consecutive week. De Minaur is one of the toughest players on tour and Nadal’s executioner on the clay of Barcelona. A win over the Aussie would be considered something of an upset for Nadal, who is approaching the match with interest in more than just the result.

“It’s not something that I worry too much about either way. The only thing that changes for me is the emotions, playing another day here in Madrid. In terms of the game, I’m indifferent about winning or losing on Saturday if I’m honest”, he added. “To me there are much more important things at the moment. A win won’t change my career or my tournament here. I’m realistic and I’m not aspiring to win. If I were, we’d be having a different conversation, which is the one we’ve had for 15 years. We’re in a different moment, Saturday is an opportunity to test my game”.

“In Barcelona, I played a set and my game was good. In the second I was unable to do it. To me it’s an opportunity to play against an opponent that makes things very difficult for me. He makes you play every point, and that is more difficult for me at the moment. I’m aware that to win this kind of match I need time and physical effort for most points. I have to see to what point I’m able to do that”, explained the five-time champion. “I’ll repeat what I said, my priority is trying to make sure nothing else happens, to give myself the opportunity to continue. After a year and a half, this is the first time I’ve played two weeks consecutively, even though it’s not many matches. To me that’s also important on a personal level and to see how my body adapts. On Saturday I’m going to try and go out and enjoy myself and try and compete. We’ll see what happens. Anything’s possible. I’m not the favourite for the match”.

In a tournament where his happiness is unrelated to victories or trophies, but to coming through the ordeal unscathed, Nadal is in no doubt of his goal in Madrid; to build strength while keeping his body intact. Being able to give it another shot is a victory in itself.

“If I leave here without having hurt myself and with the feeling that I’ve competed again without anything happening, and that I can play at a competitive level on Saturday, then I can say that I’ve had another successful week. Then it’ll be time to take another step. But I don’t know if it’s today that I have to take it or in two days. I think it’s too early and I have to give myself a chance. I have no need to deal with any pressure. I think it’s important to give myself a chance to see how I can adapt to the competition. It might be difficult to understand, I’ve played very little over the last year and a half. I need time to see how I adapt to the loads, or pushing myself. I want to at least give it a go”.