Rafael Nadal shone even more than could be expected at the BNL Internationals of Italy. After six months away from the circuit, the former world number 1 showed excellent condition leaving only two games to compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Spaniard's decision not to go to the United States for the US Open, where he could have equaled Roger Federer's Grand Slam record, caused a sensation. The Majorcan will play all his chances at Roland Garros, postponed to the end of September due to the Coronavirus emergency.
For Nadal it was the first tournament without an audience, a lack that was felt a lot here in Rome. The players themselves have in fact expressed all their regret for playing in completely empty stadiums, an unprecedented situation that has had a significant impact on the mental retention of some boys already in Flushing Meadows.
Nadal on playing without spectators
“It’s not beautiful the feeling of playing without the spectators because the energy of the fans is impossible to describe,” Rafael Nadal told the media after the match.
“But for me, at least, today has been a very positive comeback”. The Italian Open originally planned to allow a limited number of spectators into the arenas, but they were forced to abandon those plans due to local coronavirus spikes.
Similarly, the French Open intent to admit 11,500 fans each day to Roland Garros, which starts later this month, but it remains to be seen if those plans will survive a recent rise in Covid-19 cases in Paris. “Today has been a positive start for me,” Rafael Nadal said after the match.
“Of course I have to improve things. The things that I have to improve, the only way to improve is to keep practising with the right attitude, the right intensity and to spend hours in competition matches. I played a good match, maybe he was a little bit tired from New York (where) he played an amazing tournament.
I played solid, some good shots with the forehand and backhand”. Nadal has been ranked in the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for 782 consecutive weeks since 25 April 2005, second only to Jimmy Connors (789). Nadal has won a tour-level title for an Open Era record 17 straight seasons (2004-20).
It was Nadal’s first match since 29 February, when he lifted the 85th tour-level trophy of his career at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Fritz) in Acapulco.