Watch: Rafael Nadal leaves Mallorca and trains in Greece

Rafael Nadal is in Halkidiki, preparing for Bastad and Paris

by Jovica Ilic
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Watch: Rafael Nadal leaves Mallorca and trains in Greece
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

While his rivals are battling at Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal trains on his beloved clay ahead of the Olympic Games. Rafa has played and trained on clay for the last couple of months, but he at least changed his destination these days, moving from Mallorca to Greece! Nadal traveled to Sani Resort in Halkidiki and continued his preparations for his final Olympic Games in Paris, desiring to bring another medal for Spain. Rafa will return to official action in Bastad in a couple of weeks, competing in singles and doubles in his final preparation for Paris, his most important tournament of the season. After struggling with injuries for years, Nadal has felt good physically in recent weeks, hoping to extend his tennis journey and play beyond 2024. Rafa won the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the first half of 2022, looking good to become world no. 1 at 36. However, he suffered an abdominal injury at Wimbledon and failed to recover his game by the end of the season.

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

To make things even worse, the 22-time Major winner experienced a career-threatening hip injury at the 2023 Australian Open. He missed the rest of the season and embraced the most extended break of his career that sent him out of the top-600 for the first time in over two decades! Rafa returned to action in the first week of 2024, competing for the first time in almost a year in Brisbane. The legend made a convincing start against Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler, beating them in straight sets and setting the quarter-final clash against Jordan Thompson. Two rivals battled for almost three and a half hours, and the Spaniard experienced a massive blow. Nadal squandered three match points in the second set and lost the decider, feeling the pain around his troubled hip and gathering dark clouds over his Australian Open participation. Rafa underwent an MRI and withdrew from the season's first Major, returning to Mallorca and hoping to compete in February.

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

Rafael Nadal trains on clay in Greece.

However, Nadal experienced an abdominal issue while training for Doha, extending his break and missing Doha and Indian Wells. The king of clay failed to recover for Monte Carlo, and we finally saw him in action in Barcelona, competing on the court that carries his name! Playing for the first time in 100 days, Nadal fell to Alex de Minaur in the second round, having nothing left in the tank and not feeling great physically. The home hero improved his level at the Madrid Masters, scoring three wins for the first time since the 2022 US Open and seeking his 100th Masters 1000 quarter-final! Despite a solid effort, Nadal lost to Jiri Lehecka in straight sets in the fourth round, heading to Rome and making the final preparation ahead of Roland Garros. The Foro Italico legend prevailed over Zizou Bergs in the first round and set the clash against a top-10 rival, Hubert Hurkacz.

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

Rafa produced a poor level of tennis, struggling on serve and return and taking only four games, embracing one of his most challenging losses on clay. The 14-time Roland Garros champion wished for a better run at his beloved Major, but he could have played anyone from the top after using the protected ranking. By the will of tennis gods, Rafa drew the Rome Masters champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round. Zverev pushed Nadal to the limits in the 2022 semi-final before experiencing a nasty ankle injury. The German was eager to serve revenge and delivered it, scoring a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 triumph in three hours and five minutes to send the Spaniard packing. Alexander protected his serve nicely and stole 45% of the return points. Zverev turned them into six breaks from 18 chances while saving nine out of 11 break points offered to Nadal, enduring the closing stages of the second set and sealing the deal in straight sets.

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

Alexander was off to a better start, breaking Rafa in the first game of the encounter. The German pushed strong on the return at 5-3 and delivered another break that wrapped up the opener for him. Nadal raised his level in the second set, stealing the rival's serve and serving for the set at 5-4. However, he lost serve at love in the pivotal moment, offering his opponent a second chance. Zverev saved two break points at 5-5 and claimed the tie break 7-5, forging a massive advantage ahead of set number three. They exchanged early breaks and had more chances to move in front. Alexander shifted into a higher gear in the second part of the set, delivering two breaks and emerging at the top in style. Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon and remained on clay, hoping for a strong run at the Olympic Games in both singles and doubles alongside Carlos Alcaraz. 

Rafael Nadal
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