After a short campaign on the blue clay of Madrid in 2012, Rafael Nadal returned to winning ways a year later. The home favorite advanced to the fourth Caja Mágica final in five years thanks to a 6-0, 6-4 win over compatriot Pablo Andújar in one hour and 17 minutes.
Andújar came to Madrid with 11 Masters 1000 wins, and found his A game in the Spanish capital to beat Kei Nishikori in the quarters and put Nadal in shock. Rafa proved too good that day, fending off all three break chances and surrendering 11 points in eight service games to keep the pressure on the other side.
Andújar couldn't match those numbers, giving up half his points off the serve and suffering four breaks from seven chances offered to the more experienced compatriot. Thus, Rafa got into the 34th final of the Masters 1000 at the age of 26 and stayed on the road to the title.
Nadal had 22 winners and 12 unforced errors, shredding opponents on points faster by up to four shots and controlling the pace despite working harder in the second set. Pablo missed a forehand in the opening game to lose serve and make the worst start, with Nadal cementing the break after a service winner to open a 2-0 lead.
Andújar, unable to find range from him, landed a long forehand in the third game to break again and allow Rafa to open up a 4-0 lead after a quick 16 minutes. Pablo double-faulted in game five and found himself down 5-0 before Rafa closed out the set with three winners in the next to take a lead after 24 minutes.
Nadal won the 2022 Australian Open
Rafael Nadal expressed his admiration for the Pole's winning streak and lauded her for completing the rare Sunshine Double (winning back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami). "She's doing amazing things," Nadal said.
"Playing amazing and winning every single event she plays, I think the last four in a row. Winning Indian Wells and Miami in a row, it's something difficult. I'm just happy for her. She is a very spontaneous and natural girl.
It is good to have girls like her, good people like her having success." The World No. 4 proceeded to shed light on his mindset going forward. A rib injury sidelined him for over a month after Indian Wells and he is looking to make up for lost time in Rome.
"Well, I am in a little bit of a rush, I have to find the best feelings as soon as possible," he continued. "I need to recover things that I missed because of the injury, of course. I need to work as much as I can to be ready in a couple of weeks. But at the same time, the medium term, long term, I need to keep going."