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Rafael Nadal bows out of 2024 Barcelona, loses second round to Alex de Minaur

TENNIS

Rafael Nadal’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell comeback ended in the second round on Wednesday at the hands of Alex de Minaur, who won, 7-5, 6-1 on the unseeded icon’s home court.

Playing on Pista Rafael Nadal, De Minaur, seeded fourth in Barcelona, took on the living legend in the midst of what may be the end of his two decades on the ATP tour, and managed a straight-set victory to advance into the third round in one hour and 51 minutes.

Nadal was taking the court for only his second match since January, when a “micro” muscle tear incurred at the Brisbane International forced him to withdraw from the Australian Open. The 22-time Grand Slam champion subsequently sat out scheduled appearances at the BNP Paribas Open and Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Masters 1000 tournaments he previously won thrice and 11 times, respectively.

The 37-year-old has heavily implied that 2024 will be his final season on tour, and with home events looming in Barcelona and Madrid, the pressure was on the Spaniard to regain his form in time for the clay-court farewell he surely aimed to make this spring.

Entering Barcelona with a protected ranking, Nadal was competing on clay for the first time since 2022 Roland Garros, which he won for his then-record-extending 22nd major victory, which has since been surpassed by Novak Djokovic. Showing few signs of rust against Flavio Cobolli, the 12-time Barcelona champ made quick work of the unseeded Italian to book a second-round clash with De Minaur, who himself is in the midst of a career-best season.

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