Watch: Rafael Nadal trains on clay, seeks Olympic glory

Rafael Nadal is training at home in Mallorca on clay

by Jovica Ilic
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Watch: Rafael Nadal trains on clay, seeks Olympic glory
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal will not compete at the upcoming Wimbledon, focusing on the Olympic Games in Paris, his last chance to win another medal for Spain. Rafa is back on the practice court at home in Mallorca following his early Roland Garros loss, sharing a video with his fans and aiming for Olympic success. Nadal stayed on his beloved clay, using the upcoming weeks to prepare for Bastad and Paris. The veteran will embrace his last Olympic Games in July, although he wants to extend his career beyond 2024 after feeling good on the court in the previous weeks. The 22-time Major winner claimed two notable titles in 2022 before experiencing a couple of setbacks, including a career-threatening hip injury. Nadal has entered only seven tournaments since 2023, missing high-rank wins and dropping out from the top-600 for the first time in over two decades.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024
Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport
 

Rafa injured his left hip against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open and missed the rest of the season, embracing his most extended break from tennis. The Spaniard worked on his comeback and returned to action in Brisbane at the beginning of the current season. Rafa made a convincing start against Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler before experiencing another blow in the quarter-final versus Jordan Thompson. Nadal squandered three match points and suffered a heavy loss after three and a half hours. He felt the pain around his hip and withdrew from the Australian Open, not risking more issues after such a long break. To make things even worse, Rafa injured his abdominal muscle while training in February. Unable to serve properly, the Spaniard withdrew from Doha, Indian Wells and Monte Carlo, staying on the practice court and hitting the official action in Barcelona.

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

Rafael Nadal trains on clay in Mallorca.

Competing for the first time in 100 days, Nadal fell to Alex de Minaur in the second round before heading to Madrid. The home favorite played better in Caja Magica, beating three rivals for the first time since the 2022 US Open and moving closer to his 100th Masters 1000 quarter-final. Still, Nadal fell to Jiri Lehecka after a tight battle, hoping for another good run in Rome. He prevailed in the first round against Zizou Bergs before suffering a heavy 6-1, 6-3 loss to Hubert Hurkacz, struggling on serve and return and losing positive vibes ahead of Roland Garros. Entering his beloved Major with a protected ranking, Rafa did not have luck during the draw. He faced the Rome Masters champion and world no. 4 Alexander Zverev in the first round and suffered a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 defeat in three hours and five minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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

Alexander played well behind the first serve and stole 45% of the return points, turning them into six breaks from 18 chances. The veteran generated 11 chances on the return, converting only two and suffering his earliest Roland Garros defeat. The German made a convincing start, scoring an early break and delivering another in the ninth game for 6-3. Nadal shifted into a higher gear in the second set, earning a break and serving for the set at 5-4. Zverev broke back at love and denied two break points in the next one to arrange a tie break. Alexander prevailed and built a massive advantage. The returners had their chances in the first part of the third set, with two rivals exchanging early breaks. Zverev grabbed two more return games from 3-3, sealing the deal and sending Nadal packing. 

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024
Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport
 

Rafael Nadal
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