Rafael Nadal fails to follow Roger Federer's record. Will he get a second chance?

Rafael Nadal lost in the Madrid Masters fourth round

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal fails to follow Roger Federer's record. Will he get a second chance?
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal returned to his beloved Masters 1000 series at home in Madrid, playing his first tournament at this level since Paris 2022! Rafa had a chance to become the second-oldest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist after his great friend and rival Roger Federer, seeking a spot in the last eight at 37 years and ten months.

Nadal claimed three wins, moving closer to a milestone before falling to Jiri Lehecka in straight sets in the fourth round. Thus, Nadal will have to wait for some other chance to enter the record list alongside Federer, and the new opportunity comes in Rome.

Rafa entered Madrid after the second-round loss in Barcelona. The king of clay played better at Caja Magica, notching three wins for the first time since the 2022 US Open. Nadal kicked off his 20th Madrid Masters campaign against the 16-year-old Darwin Blanch and earned a dominant 6-1, 6-0 victory in 64 minutes!

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

Rafa played his first Masters 1000 match in a year and a half and performed well on serve and return, leaving the young gun far behind.

The home favorite lost nine points behind the initial shot, facing no break points and mounting the pressure on the other side. Blanch could not endure it, dropping 60% of the points in his games and getting broken five times from nine chances offered to Nadal.

Rafa tamed his strokes nicely and built the advantage in the shortest and more advanced exchanges, celebrating his fourth win in 2024. Nadal faced Alex de Minaur in the second round and avenged the Barcelona Open loss, beating the Aussie 7-6, 6-3 in two hours and one minute.

The veteran endured a 80-minute battle in the opener and toppled his rival in set number two, sealing the deal in straight sets and preserving energy. Rafa came from a break down in the opening set and prevailed in the closing stages for a massive boost.

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

Rafael Nadal could have become the second-oldest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist.

The Spaniard clinched an early break in the second set and grabbed another at 5-3 after the Aussie's double fault, sealing the deal and moving into the third round.

Nadal faced a stern test in the third round and passed it, ousting Pedro Cachin 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 after three hours and four minutes, securing a place in the last 16 for the 18th straight time in Madrid! Rafa missed his chances in the second set.

Hoever, he endured the effort and preserved energy for the decider, leaving his opponent behind and earning another notable win. Nadal lost 42% of the points in his games, struggling in his games in sets two and three. The veteran lost serve four times from six chances offered to Cachin and responded with a reliable performance on the return.

Rafa earned 18 break points and converted nine, controlling the scoreboard in sets one and three and moving over the top. Despite not getting much from his initial shot, Nadal landed 36 winners and 32 unforced errors.

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

He welcomed 41 unforced mistakes from his rival and secured the win in the most extended exchanges.

The home favorite served well in the opener, losing five points in his games and keeping the pressure on the Argentine. Nadal provided three breaks and claimed the opener 6-1 in 46 minutes. They battled for almost an hour and a half in the second set, with Nadal dropping his intensity and Cachin raising his level.

They split six breaks, and Pedro had an early advantage. The Argentine led 4-2 before the Spaniard pulled the break back and saved a set point in game ten. They traded breaks in games 11 and 12, introducing a tie break. Rafa stood two points away from the finish line at 5-5 before losing the last two points, allowing Pedro to force a decider with a return winner.

Nadal grabbed a break in the first game of the third set and held at love a few minutes later to cement the advantage.

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

Cachin saved two break points in the third game, remaining in touch and extending his chances.

The Argentine broke back in the fourth game and secured more drama after two hours and 40 minutes. Rafa made a fresh start and hit a running backhand winner in the fifth game, building another advantage and serving well in games six and eight.

Cachin served to stay in the match at 3-5, and Nadal made another push on the return. The home favorite clinched another break after the rival's loose forehand, celebrating a notable win and moving into the last 16. Rafa could not make another push and reach the quarter-final, falling to Jiri Lehecka 7-5, 6-4 after two hours and two minutes.

Nadal fought well but could not follow the pace of his young opponent, failing to reach the Madrid quarter-final only for the second time since 2005! Lehecka faced only one break point, saving it and keeping the pressure on Nadal.

Rafa served well early on before suffering back-to-back breaks at the end of the opener and the beginning of the second set.

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Madrid Masters