Rafael Nadal returns to competition in Monte Carlo next week, seeking the 12th title at one of his favorite events. Rafa has played only five matches this season, struggling with a back injury and skipping three tournaments in February and March to recover.
Working on clay for the last couple of weeks at home in Mallorca, Rafa is ready to embrace his beloved European clay swing and chase titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris in the next two months. The 20-time Major champion played his only tournament in 2021 at the Australian Open, dealing with that injury and still reaching the quarter-final without losing a set.
Nadal experienced a back injury during the Adelaide quarantine in January, skipping the ATP Cup and entering the Australian Open with low expectations. The 2009 champion scored four victories in straight sets to reach the quarters without spending too much time on the court, playing well and having a massive chance to extend the winning streak and enter the semis.
Instead of that, Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Nadal in thrilling five sets, delivering marvelous performance behind the initial shot from set number three and prevailing in the decisive moments to score a 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 triumph in four hours and five minutes!
Shifting into a higher gear with his back pushed against the wall, Stefanos controlled his service games' pace in the third set and grabbed a tie break 7-4 for a massive boost. Nadal made some loose smash errors in the breaker, and they would cost him dearly, as he couldn't regain momentum in the rest of the clash, hanging in but not doing enough to cross the finish line first.
Rafael Nadal shared thoughts about tough Australian Open campaign.
The pressure was on Rafa in sets four and five, and he couldn't endure it after losing the drive, getting broken once in each to hit the exit door. Nadal lost the pace a bit with his groundstrokes as the match went on and struggled more and more on the return to put Stefanos in the driving seat.
Simultaneously, Tsitsipas threw everything he had on his opponent, delivering one good hold after another and completing his most remarkable career victory to advance into the second Australian Open semi-final in three years.
Speaking about the Australian Open ahead of Monte Carlo, Nadal said he was through tough times, dealing with an injury for almost three weeks before he got a chance to play matches, losing the positive vibes in between. After nearly two months, the Spaniard feels rest and ready to play his best tennis and battle for the 12th trophy in the Principality.
"It was tough times. Before the Australian Open, I had to find solutions every day to try to play the tournament, which I did. It was not a bad result to reach the quarter-finals, but not as good as I would like. I felt ready for Melbourne, but then I experienced back problems and had to wait for some 20 days for the tournament to start, losing positive feelings in between.
Then it took some time to get back on-court. I had to do some treatment at home that took a couple of weeks to work the right way again. But I'm pretty happy now. I have practiced well for the last month; I was able to work as much as I wanted. I'm playing well, and I'm pleased with my level ahead of Monte Carlo," Rafael Nadal said.