Rafael Nadal seeks ultimate Masters 1000 record

Rafael Nadal stands a win away from an incredible achievement in Madrid

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal seeks ultimate Masters 1000 record
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

With 36 titles from 53 finals and over 400 victories, Rafael Nadal is the most decorated player at a Masters 1000 level alongside Novak Djokovic. Plagued with injuries, Rafa missed an entire Masters 1000 series in 2023 and the beginning of 2024, returning to action at home in Madrid.

Nadal is pursuing an ultimate record at his beloved Caja Magica, trying to become the first player with 100 Masters 1000 quarter-finals! Rafa is trying to achieve the honor before Novak Djokovic and will get there if he ousts Jiri Lehecka in the fourth round.

Despite all the setbacks, Nadal gives everything to extend his career and end it on his terms. The veteran is eager to chase notable titles again after experiencing the worst injury of his career at the beginning of 2023. Rafa's first Masters 1000 quarter-final came in Miami 2005 at 18, and he passed the 40th by the end of 2010!

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2024© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard had been a player to beat at this level for years before slowing down due to injuries and setbacks, claiming only one title after the summer of 2019.

Rafa earned his 92nd Masters 1000 quarter-final in 2019, and the 100th became only a matter of time. However, Nadal has been dealing with injuries for years, notching only seven Masters 1000 quarter-finals since the start of 2020.

The milestone 100th could come in front of the home fans at Caja Magica, with Rafa stopping the clock at his first Masters 1000 event in a year and a half! The veteran started from the first round, facing the 16-year-old Darwin Blanch.

Nadal dominated the young gun and earned a 6-1, 6-0 victory in 64 minutes. Ten days after losing to him in Barcelona, Rafa served revenge to Alex de Minaur, beating the Aussie 7-6, 6-3 in just over two hours and securing a place in the third round.

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

Rafael Nadal is battling for his 100th Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid.

They battled for almost 80 minutes in the opener, and Nadal kept his composure despite wasting a massive advantage in the tie break.

The home favorite broke the rival's resistance in the second set, celebrating back-to-back victories for the first time since the opening week of the season! Nadal faced a stern test in a battle for a place in the last 16, toppling Pedro Cachin 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 after three hours and four minutes.

Pedro tested his idol, stealing the second set before falling in the decider, propelling the veteran into the next round. Rafa endured the physical efforts, earning three straight wins for the first time since the 2022 US Open!

The Spaniard made a great start before losing ground behind the initial shots in sets two and three, getting broken four times. However, Nadal stayed rock-solid on the return from start to finish, earning 18 break chances and converting nine to control the scoreboard and extend his journey.

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

While struggling to find service winners after feeling abdominal issues for over two months, Nadal played well from the field and landed 36 winners and 32 unforced errors.

Cachin sprayed 41 unforced errors, giving his everything to stay in touch but ending his campaign in the third round. Rafa overpowered his opponent in the most advanced rallies, bringing the victory home thanks to that segment.

Naal found the first serve in the opening set and controlled the pace, never facing a break point. Cachin missed a forehand in the opening game of the match, losing serve and finding himself behind. Rafa made another push on the return at 3-1, seizing the third break chance with a forehand down the line winner and extending the gap.

The home favorite grabbed his third break at 5-1, sealing the opener after 46 minutes. After a one-sided set, the second offered drama and excitement, with both players dropping over half of the points behind the initial shot.

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

Nadal came from 4-2 down and saved set points in the tenth game before delivering a late break at 5-6 to introduce a tie break. Cachin failed to serve out for the set two times but stayed focused in the breaker.

The Argentine forged a 4-1 lead before the Spaniard climbed back to 5-5. Pedro landed a forehand winner for 6-5 and a set point and painted a return winner, introducing the final set after two hours and 12 minutes. Rafa preserved energy in his body and made a fresh start in the decider.

Nadal overcame a 40-15 deficit in the first game and clinched a break with a forehand winner, gathering a massive boost. The Spaniard held at love and created two break chances at 2-0, looking good to end the Argentine's resistance.

Pedro denied them and held before pulling the break back in game five after Rafa's wayward forehand, engineering more drama. Nadal stayed composed and grabbed a break at 2-2 with a backhand winner, feeling the vibes from the crowd and producing two fine holds for a 5-3 advantage.

Eager to finish the match, Rafa sealed the deal with another break in game nine, rattling off four of the final five games and booking a place in the last 16 for the 18th consecutive time in Madrid.

Rafael Nadal