ATP Barcelona: Rafael Nadal makes a triumphant comeback!

Rafael Nadal took down Flavio Cobolli in the first round in Barcelona

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Barcelona: Rafael Nadal makes a triumphant comeback!
© Stream screenshot

Competing for the first time since the opening week of the season, the crowd favorite Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Barcelona! Rafa took down the young Italian Flavio Cobolli 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes on the court that carries his name, celebrating his 67th triumph at one of his favorite events.

It was Nadal's eighth match since the start of 2023, and he looked good, controlling his strokes nicely and welcoming numerous mistakes from his opponent. Rafa made a convincing start before losing serve once in the second set.

He stole Cobolli's serve four times, holding the strings of the duel in his hands and notching his third victory of 2024. Also, the king of clay celebrated on his favorite surface for the first time since lifting his 14th Roland Garros crown in June 2022.

Rafael Nadal, Barcelona 2024© Stream screenshot

The home favorite had the upper hand in the opening set, providing four fine holds and two breaks of serve for 6-2 in 43 minutes. Cobolli sprayed too many mistakes, struggling to control Nadal's topspins and move a 22-time Major winner from the comfort zone.

Rafa dropped five points behind the initial shot, keeping the pressure on the other side and breaking his young rival two times from eight opportunities. The Spaniard held from 0-30 in the first game of the match, welcoming the Italian's backhand error and getting his name on the scoreboard.

Flavio responded with a fine hold in game two, using Rafa's short return and closing the game with a forehand winner for 1-1. Nadal clinched the third game after Cobolli's forehand error and made a push on the return in the next one.

Rafael Nadal made a winning return at the Barcelona Open.

The young gun faced two break points in the fourth game and denied them with fine hitting. He wasted a game point and got broken on Nadal's third break point after a backhand mistake.

The Spaniard secured the fifth game with a service winner, forging a 4-1 advantage after 24 minutes and gaining a boost. Flavio faced more issues in the sixth game, playing against four break points after failing to impose his strokes.

Cobolli erased four break points (three with service winners) and brought the game home with a powerful serve, reducing the deficit to 4-2. Nadal left those chances behind and held at love in game seven with a service winner, keeping the pressure on the other side.

Flavio served to stay in the set in game eight and missed a game point after Rafa's backhand crosscourt winner. The home star created a set point after the rival's wayward forehand and converted it when Flavio netted a forehand, moving closer to the finish line.

Cobolli created his first break point of the match in the first game of the second set after forcing Nadal's mistake. Rafa denied it with a drop shot winner and held after Flavio's wild forehand. The young gun netted a backhand in the second game, offering the veteran two break points.

Cobolli placed a forehand long, losing serve and falling 2-0 behind. Nadal struggled behind the initial shot for the second straight time in game three and got broken after a backhand mistake, bringing Cobolli back to the positive side.

Instead of building on that, Flavio hit a double fault in the fourth game to lose serve and find himself 3-1 behind. The Spaniard cemented the advantage with a service winner in game five, controlling the scoreboard and moving closer to the finish line.

The Italian produced his best hold in the sixth game, painting a forehand winner and holding at love to reduce the deficit to 4-2. Nadal held easily in the seventh game after Cobolli's loose forehand, moving 5-2 in front and forcing his young rival to serve to stay in the match.

Flavio held at love in game eight, reducing the deficit and extending the battle. Rafa served for the win at 5-3 and held at 15 after Flavio's backhand error, celebrating a notable win and moving into the second round.

Atp Barcelona Rafael Nadal Flavio Cobolli