Rafael Nadal's Honest Reflections After Barcelona Defeat

Rafael Nadal fell to Alex de Minaur in straight sets in the third round

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Honest Reflections After Barcelona Defeat
© David Ramos / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal suffered a second-round loss at his beloved Barcelona Open, losing to Alex de Minaur in straight sets. Rafa competed for the first time since the opening week of the season, entering the action with minor expectations and hoping for a better run in Madrid and Rome.

Nadal placed logic over heroic acts, wishing to complete the week without physical setbacks and achieving that. However, the veteran knew his chances against de Minaur were over after dropping the opening set, not feeling ready to compete at maximum for three sets.

Rafa played his first match in 100 days in the opening round against the young Italian Flavio Cobolli. The home favorites notched a rock-solid 6-2, 6-3 triumph in an hour and 25 minutes, celebrating on clay for the first time since June 2022!

Rafael Nadal, Barcelona 2024© David Ramos / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Cobolli could not push Nadal to the limits, struggling to deal with the rival's topspins and spraying too many mistakes. Rafa felt good in the exchanges, requiring no extra physical effort and hitting well from his backhand wing.

Nadal has been dealing with abdominal issues since February, although he did not have to serve at full speed against the young gun. The home favorite performed well behind the first and second serve, facing two break points in the second set and dropping serve once.

Flavio could not match those numbers, offering the veteran ten break points and losing serve four times. Rafa pushed Flavio to the limits in three consecutive return games in the opening set, delivering breaks in games four and eight and building the advantage.

The Spaniard felt problems behind the initial shot at the beginning of the second set, getting broken in the third game. However, Nadal stole Cobolli's serve in games two and four, moving 3-1 in front and delivering comfortable holds in games five, seven and nine to emerge at the top in style.

Rafa faced a much more formidable obstacle in the second round, with Alex de Minaur standing across the net. The Aussie ousted the Spaniard 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 52 minutes, prevailing in the opener and sailing toward the win in set number two.

Rafa stayed competitive in the opening nine games, erasing the deficit and creating a break chance that could have sent him in front.

Rafael Nadal, Barcelona 2024© David Ramos / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal could not endure a battle against Alex de Minaur in Barcelona.

Alex stayed focused and clinched 12 of the last 13 points of the set, gathering a boost and leaving Rafa far behind in the second set, delivering Nadal's fifth loss in Barcelona. The Spaniard struggled behind the initial shot, playing against nine break points and getting broken five times.

Rafa grabbed one break in the opening set, which was not enough to keep him competitive. De Minaur served at only 53% in the first set, but it did not cost him much, wrapping up the set in 67 minutes. Nadal netted a slice in the first game of the match and experienced a break after netting a routine backhand.

De Minaur wasted game points in the second game and kept the veteran in contention before closing it with an unreturned serve and cementing the break.

Rafael Nadal, Barcelona 2024© David Ramos / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafa wasted two game points in the third game and faced a break point after Alex's drop shot winner.

Nadal denied it with a well-constructed attack and held after de Minaur's forehand mistake. Rafa sprayed a forehand error in the fourth game before clinched the next one at 30-0, reducing the deficit to 3-2. The veteran pulled the break back in game six with a powerful backhand attack, gaining a boost and firing another in the next one for 4-3 and his first advantage.

Nadal drew de Minaur's mistake in the eighth game and created a break chance. Alex saved it with a forehand winner and brought the game home after Rafa's wild forehand, locking the result at 4-4. Nadal held at 15 in the ninth game, and it was the last we saw from him, dropping nine of the final ten games!

The Spaniard missed a backhand in the 11th game and faced three break points. He sprayed another error from his right wing, losing serve at love and falling 6-5 behind. The Aussie closed the set with a service winner in game 12, rattling off three games and gathering a massive boost.

Rafa had nothing more left in the tank, saving a break point in the first game of the second set before dropping the following six games. De Minaur clinched three breaks and sealed the deal in game seven, celebrating a notable win and sending Nadal packing.

Rafael Nadal, Barcelona 2024© David Ramos / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"I competed as this was my last Barcelona Open. However, you never know what the future holds. I felt good on the court. Unfortunately, I still can not think about winning.

I only want to finish the tournament without physical setbacks. I achieved that in Barcelona, although I knew I could not fight at 100% for the entire match against Alex. After everything I have been through, I can not think about heroic acts but logically accept things. The reality is that the match was over when I lost the opening set," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Alex De Minaur