In February last year, Rafael Nadal claimed the 85th ATP title in Acapulco, beating Taylor Fritz in the final. Rafa traveled to Indian Wells, but there was no action in the Californian desert, with the coronavirus sending all the players home for the next five months.
Rafa stayed in Mallorca during the pandemic outbreak, not training for two months and making slow return steps. The 19-time Major winner opted to train on clay and skip Cincinnati and the US Open once the season restarted in August.
The Madrid Masters was canceled, and Nadal selected Rome as his first comeback stop, seeking the tenth crown in the Italian capital. Entering one of his favorite events, Rafa did not know what to expect in his first match after such an extended break, hoping to play as many encounters as possible and gain form.
As it turned out, there was no reason to worry about, as he defeated the US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in 73 minutes. Serving at 49%, Rafa lost only eight points behind the initial shot, facing one break point in the first game of the clash and never looking back.
Nadal grabbed five breaks to stay in front all the time, hitting 20 winners and 11 unforced errors while drawing almost 30 unforced mistakes from his opponent. Rafa had to play against that break point in the first game despite being 40-0 up, erasing it with a service winner and holding at love with a service winner for 2-1.
Carreno Busta got broken in game four after Nadal's backhand crosscourt winner and fell 4-1 down when Rafa held at 15 a few minutes later.
Rafael Nadal did not train for two months during the pandemic last year.
The younger Spaniard gave serve away at love in game six before Rafa to wrapped up the set a few minutes later with an ace.
Pablo fended off two break chances with winners at the beginning of the second set but could not do the same two games later when Rafa placed two winners to gain the lead. The nine-time Foro Italico champion held after deuce to open a 3-1 gap and grabbed another break when Carreno Busta sprayed a forehand error to move closer to the finish line.
A backhand winner secured the sixth game for Rafa, and he emerged at the top with the third straight break soon after that for an impressive start of the campaign. "During the coronavirus outbreak, I had not touched a racquet for two months.
Then, I started practicing hard and then on clay, deciding to skip Cincinnati and the US Open. I do not remember when I began to practice on clay, but it has been a while. Every day, I worked on and off the court, making a slow start, taking things step by step after such a long break from tennis and avoiding injuries.
After the lockdown, I had some issues with my body, which is normal. I wanted to get back into the best shape and return to the court when I would feel ready," Rafael Nadal said.