In February, Rafael Nadal claimed the 85th ATP title in Acapulco, beating Taylor Fritz in the final. Rafa traveled to Indian Wells but there was no action in the Californian desert, with the coronavirus sending all the players home for the next five months.
Rafa stayed in Mallorca during the pandemic outbreak, not training for two months and making a slow return at his Academy, training on clay and skipping Cincinnati and the US Open. The Madrid Masters was canceled, and Nadal picked Rome as his first comeback stop, seeking the tenth crown in the Italian capital.
Entering one of his favorite events, Rafa didn't know what to expect in his first match after such a long break, hoping to play as many encounters as possible. As it turned out, there was no reason to worry about, defeating the US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1 in 73 minutes.
Serving at 49%, Rafa lost only eight points behind the initial shot, facing one break point in the first game of the clash and never looking back. Nadal grabbed five breaks to stay in front all the time, hitting 20 winners and 11 unforced errors, while drawing almost 30 unforced mistakes from his opponent.
Rafa had to play against that break point in the first game despite being 40-0 up, erasing it with a service winner and holding at love with a service winner for 2-1. Carreno Busta got broken in game four after a backhand crosscourt winner from Nadal, who opened a 4-1 gap with a hold at 15.
Rafael Nadal is off to a winning start in Rome, beating Pablo Carreno Busta.
The younger Spaniard gave serve away at love in game six before Rafa to wrapped up the set a few minutes later thanks to an ace. Pablo fended off two break chances with winners at the beginning of the second set, unable to do the same two games later when Rafa placed two winners to gain the lead.
The nine-time champion held after deuce to open a 3-1 gap, clinching another break when Pablo sprayed a forehand error and moving closer to the finish line. A backhand winner secured the sixth game for Rafa, who emerged at the top with the third straight break, making an impressive start after not competing for over half a year.
"During the coronavirus outbreak, I hadn't touched a racquet for two months. Then, I started to practice on hard and then on clay, deciding to skip Cincinnati and the US Open. I don't remember when I began to practice on clay, but it has been a while.
I worked on and off the court every day, making a slow start, taking things step by step after such a long break from tennis and avoiding injuries. After the lockdown, I had some issues with my body, which is normal. I wanted to get back into the best shape and return to the court when I would feel ready," Rafael Nadal said.