The five-time Madrid Open champion Rafael Nadal will be the top seed at the Madrid Masters 1000 event next week, seeking the first Caja Magica crown since 2017. World no. 2 arrived in the Spanish capital on Thursday and hit the practice court outside the Caja Magica complex, waiting for his PCR results and entering the venue on Friday morning for a training session with Jaume Munar.
World no. 1 Novak Djokovic decided to skip this year's edition of the Madrid Open, leaving Rafa as the top seed and the favorite alongside Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Dominic Thiem, if the Austrian finds his A-game after an extended break.
Nadal claimed the first Madrid Open title back in 2005, beating Ivan Ljubicic in an epic final to earn his first and only title on an indoor hard surface! Four years later, Madrid switched to clay at Caja Magica, with Rafa reaching the final following a thrilling semi-final victory over Novak Djokovic after over four hours!
Roger Federer beat Nadal in the final, and the Spaniard bounced back a year later to serve revenge and lift the trophy. Novak Djokovic beat him in the title match in 2011, and Rafa had to wait until 2013 to celebrate the title again, beating Stan Wawrinka in the final.
Rafael Nadal will seek the 36th Masters 1000 title next week at home in Madrid.
Nadal defended the title in 2014 and had notable runs in the next couple of years, although he couldn't go all the way. Nadal's fourth Caja Magica title came in 2017 when he defeated Dominic Thiem in the final.
The Austrian bounced back stronger in 2018 to beat the Spaniard in the quarters, with Stefanos Tsitsipas halting him in the semis in 2019. Since 2003, Rafa has never missed the home Masters 1000 event, embracing 17 entries and preparing for the 18th next week.
The 20-time Major champion has played only three tournaments in 2021, skipping the ATP Cup due to a back injury and wasting a massive two sets to love advantage against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open. Taking almost two months off, Nadal returned in Monte Carlo and suffered the quarter-final loss to Andrey Rublev after a great battle.
Eager to chase the season's first title, Rafa raised his level in Barcelona after a slow start and saved a match point versus Stefanos Tsitsipas in the title clash to secure the 12th Barcelona Open title and the 87th overall.