Having cleared up the debate over whether he would participate at the Mutua Madrid Open, Rafael Nadal made an appearance in the Caja Mágica on Thursday for his first training session. Amid the hype you would expect for the player to have lifted the trophy more times than any other at the Masters 1000 in the Spanish capital (2005, 2010, 2013-14 & 2017), the player from Manacor made his first contact with the clay in the Manolo Santana Stadium much to the delight of the fans who stayed on after the final match of the day.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion chose the #MMOPEN to return to the ATP Tour after four weeks away from competition due to a fractured rib he picked up during the tournament in Indian Wells. Therefore, Nadal will be starting his clay swing, and the run up to the French Open, in Madrid.
The current world No. 4 will be looking to pick up where he left off after a barnstorming start to the season that included twenty consecutive victories. During that spell of wins, Nadal captured a hat trick of titles at the ATP 250 in Melbourne, the Australian Open and the ATP 500 in Acapulco. It was in the first major of the season that, after a memorable comeback against Daniil Medvedev in the final, he pulled away from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Grand Slam title race.
Nadal will be defending the quarter-finals he reached at the #MMOPEN last season. There, it was Alexander Zverev, who went on to claim the title for the second time in the Caja Mágica, that ended his campaign for a sixth crown in Madrid. He also faces a huge challenge at this 20 th anniversary edition since, as well as having the German and the world No. 1 seeded above him, there are plenty of other strong candidates to the title.
His compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who is on the verge of his 19 th birthday, has already won a Masters 1000 this year in Miami and won on the clay of Barcelona last week. Neither can Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas be overlooked. One of the biggest clay specialists, he reached the French Open final last year and has won the last two editions of the Monte Carlo tournament.
Action in the ATP event gets underway on Sunday 1 May. The day before will see the start of the qualifiers with twelve spots up for grabs to complete the line-up of 56 players bidding to get their hands on the new Arete sculpture trophy, created by artist David Rodríguez Caballero for the 2022 champion.
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