Rafael Nadal’s comeback gathers pace as he reaches Madrid Open fourth round

Rafael Nadal admitted that his level is “more unpredictable” than it used to be as he continued his winning run at the Madrid Open with a hard-fought victory against Argentine Pedro Cachín.

Nadal, who has battled with injuries this year, defeated Cachín 6-1 6-7(5-7) 6-3 in three hours and four minutes on Monday, showing signs that he could reignite his career ahead of the French Open next month.

It’s the first time since 2022 that the Spaniard, who has won a record five titles in Madrid, has reached the fourth round of an ATP Tour event having appeared at just three tournaments this year.

“I cannot predict what’s going on tomorrow, what can happen tomorrow, or what level I’m going to show tomorrow,” Nadal told reporters after Monday’s match.

“I’m more unpredictable than what I used to be … Nobody knows what can happen during the night and how I wake up [Tuesday] morning and that’s the truth.”

After the match, world No. 91 Cachín said that it had been a “dream” to play against Nadal when the pair met at the net, then asked if he could keep his opponent’s shirt or towel.

Nadal and Cachín shake hands at the net after their Madrid Open match. - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Nadal and Cachín shake hands at the net after their Madrid Open match. - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The 22-time grand slam champion obliged, handing Cachín one of his purple t-shirts before they left the court.

The touching moment came at the end of a tight contest in which Nadal had breezed through the first set before facing a fightback in the second.

He managed to recover from a double break and saved two set points before Cachín leveled the match in a tie-break.

In the deciding set, however, the 37-year-old asserted his dominance and ground out the victory, the first time since the start of January that he has played more than two sets of tennis.

Nadal, who defeated world No. 10 Alex de Minaur in the second round, next faces Czech Republic’s Jiří Lehečka in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

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