Rafael Nadal collects ultimate Masters 1000 record

Rafael Nadal competed in Madrid for the 20th time since 2003

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

Rafael Nadal wrote history books at the home Madrid Masters! Rafa became the first player with 20 appearances at a single Masters 1000 event, leaving all the setbacks behind and scoring three wins at Caja Magica. Madrid became a Masters 1000 event in 2002, and Nadal debuted a year later at 17.

Rafa embraced early exits in 2003 and 2004 before lifting a trophy in 2005 following an epic victory over Ivan Ljubicic that cost him a broken foot! Nadal has been a synonym for consistency in Madrid, reaching 16 quarter-finals in the previous 18 trips to the Spanish capital.

The home favorite failed to reach the last eight only two times after 2004, and one of those early exits came last week. Nadal had to think twice before entering his 20th Madrid Masters. He did not feel great physically but decided to give it a go, probably for the last time in front of the home fans.

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

Rafa stopped the clock and defeated three rivals, reaching the last 16 for the 18th straight time at the home Masters 1000 event before losing to Jiri Lehecka.

Nadal had a great run at Caja Magica between 2009 and 2017, reaching seven finals from nine appearances and lifting four trophies. Rafa slowed down in 2018, reaching only one semi-final but still standing as the most decorated player of the prestigious event.

Nadal missed Madrid for the first time in 2023 due to injury and returned two weeks ago for what could be his last Caja Magica ride. Rafa played his first Masters 1000 match since Paris 2022 against the 16-year-old Darwin Blanch.

The experience overpowered the youth, with Nadal earning a dominant 6-1, 6-0 win in just over an hour. Rafa has been dealing with abdominal pain since February, but no one could notice that in this one. The veteran lost nine points in his games, keeping a teenager away from break chances.

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

Rafael Nadal is the only player with 20 appearances at a single Masters 1000 event.

Nadal brought the same intensity to the return games, clinching 60% of the points and turning them into five breaks from nine opportunities.

The home favorite tamed his strokes nicely and had the upper hand in the shortest and more advanced rallies, bringing home his fourth victory in 2024. Rafa delivered a bagel in the second set, wasting no time on the court and setting the second-round clash against Alex de Minaur.

The Spaniard lost to the Aussie in Barcelona and served revenge in Madrid, beating a better-ranked opponent 7-6, 6-3 in two hours and one minute. They battled for nearly 80 minutes in the opener, and Nadal endured all the challenges.

The opening set saw four breaks in the opening eight games. They served better after that and reached a tie break. Rafa wasted four set points at 6-2 before seizing the fifth, gaining a massive boost. The veteran served well in the second set and clinched breaks in games one and nine, moving into the third round.

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

The home favorite had to work harder in the third round against Pedro Cachin, earning a 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 win in three hours and four minutes.

Rafa played well in the sets he won, missing chances in the second but standing strong in the decider. The Spaniard had to dig deep behind the initial shot in sets two and three, losing serve four times from six chances offered to the Argentine.

However, Nadal erased the deficit with a fine performance on the return, earning 18 break opportunities and seizing nine to book a place in the last 16. Rafa tamed his strokes nicely and endured the physical effort despite three hours on the clock.

The Spaniard made a reliable start, losing five points behind the initial shot in the opening set and pressuring his rival. Nadal broke Cachin three times for 6-1 and momentum. However, Pedro raised his level in the second set, prevailing after almost an hour and a half and forcing a decider.

Rafa trailed 4-2 and faced a set point in game ten.

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

He overcame those obstacles and introduced a tie break with a late break at 5-6. Nadal could have sealed the deal in straight sets but lost the final two points at 5-5, allowing Cachin to force a decider with a return winner.

The veteran made a fresh start and clinched a break at the beginning of the final set. Rafa created two more chances in the third game, and Pedro denied them to reduce the deficit. Cachin broke back in the fourth game, returning to the positive side with two hours and 40 minutes on the clock.

Nadal stayed focused and broke again at 2-2 with a backhand winner. The home player served well in games six and eight, moving 5-3 in front and delivering another break in game nine that pushed him through. Rafa chased his 100th Masters 1000 quarter-final against the young Czech Jiri Lehecka.

Nadal suffered a 7-5, 6-4 loss in two hours and two minutes despite a decent effort. Lehecka faced one break point in the entire clash, keeping the pressure on the other side. He broke Nadal in the closing stages of the opening set and at the beginning of the second, booking a place in the quarter-final.

Rafael Nadal