Picture: King of clay Rafael Nadal meets Spanish King Felipe VI

Rafael Nadal played well in the second round at Caja Magica

by Jovica Ilic
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Picture: King of clay Rafael Nadal meets Spanish King Felipe VI
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

King of Spain, Felipe VI, came to watch Rafael Nadal at Caja Magica on Saturday. Rafa scored a notable 7-6, 6-3 triumph over Alex de Minaur, advancing into the third round and offering the partisan crowd something to cheer about.

After the match, Nadal met King Felipe VI, hoping for more encounters and wins next week. Rafa did not feel well physically ahead of Madrid. However, he decided to give it a go in front of the home fans and get more matches after playing only five since the beginning of the year!

The veteran took down Darwin Blanch and Alex de Minaur to find himself in the third round in the record-breaking 20th Madrid Masters appearance. Rafa lost to Alex in Barcelona and served revenge in Madrid, enduring a tight opener and overpowering his rival in set number two.

Nadal lost serve two times in the opener and grabbed four breaks from five opportunities. The veteran hit only five service winners after dealing with an abdominal injury for months.

Spanish King Felipe VI© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

However, he tamed his groundstrokes nicely and left a much younger opponent behind.

Things would have become interesting had de Minaur claimed the opener, but Nadal stayed composed and gained a massive boost in front of the packed stadium. They battled for 66 minutes in the first set, and Nadal pulled the break back before prevailing in a wild tie break.

There were two breaks on each side, and de Minaur lost the set despite winning two points more than the legend. The home favorite made a reliable start and held at 15 in the first game of the match when his rival placed a backhand wide.

Rafa landed a forehand down the line winner in the second game for a break chance and seized it after Alex's wayward forehand, securing an early lead and moving 2-0 in front. The third game produced a controversy and arguments between Nadal and the chair umpire.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal met the Spanish King Felipe VI in Madrid.

Rafa denied two break points before Alex seized the third with a forehand crosscourt winner, pulling the break back and getting his name on the scoreboard.

Nadal netted a backhand in the fourth game, allowing de Minaur to hold at love and level the score at 2-2. The home favorite held at 15 in the fifth game, and the Aussie responded with another fine hold a few minutes later after a service winner, staying on the positive side.

Rafa struggled on serve in the seventh game, missing a routine volley and offering his rival three break chances. De Minaur converted the first with a deep attack, breaking at love and opening a 4-3 advantage. Alex hit a double fault in the eighth game, providing Rafa with a break chance and getting broken after a forced error.

Nadal held at 15 in the ninth game, moving in front and forcing de Minaur to serve to stay in the set.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Alex stayed focused and grabbed the tenth game after Rafa's loose backhand, locking the result at 5-5 and extending the battle.

Nadal closed the 11th game with a lucky net cord winner after deuce, and de Minaur closed the next one with a forced error, introducing a tie break. The Aussie missed a smash in the fourth point, and the Spaniard painted a backhand crosscourt winner in the next one for a 4-1 advantage.

Nadal opened a 6-2 gap, earning four set points. Alex denied them and climbed back to 6-6 after Rafa's wayward backhand. The home favorite stayed focused and fired a backhand crosscourt winner for 7-6 and his fourth set point.

Nadal caused de Minaur's mistake, wrapping up the opener after a grueling 76 minutes and gaining a massive boost. Not stopping there, Rafa landed a forehand crosscourt winner and created a break chance in the first game of the second set.

Alex played a loose backhand, losing serve and falling a set and a break down. Nadal served well in games two and four, holding at love and opening a 3-1 advantage. De Minaur closed the fifth game after deuce, remaining within one break deficit and moving 30-0 in front on the return in the next one.

Alex went for a forehand winner and missed, squandering a chance to create two break points. Rafa closed the game with a backhand crosscourt winner, delivering a pivotal hold and moving 4-2 in front. De Minaur held at 15 in the seventh game after a forced error, hoping for return chances in the next one.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Instead, the veteran produced a hold at love in game eight, forging a 5-3 advantage and keeping the pressure on the other side. Alex served to stay in the match in game nine and faced two match points after Rafa's cracking backhand crosscourt winner.

The Aussie hit a double fault on the second, losing serve and propelling the Spaniard over the top. Thus, Rafa earned his fifth ATP win of the season, doing his best to raise his level and play competitive tennis at his beloved Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal
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