Rafael Nadal defeated in second round after making tennis comeback at Barcelona Open

Rafael Nadal’s tennis comeback came to an abrupt end on Wednesday after he lost in straight sets against Alex de Minaur at the Barcelona Open.

Australian De Minaur took less than two hours to defeat the 12-time tournament champion Nadal – 7-5 6-1 – in what was Nadal’s second tournament in 15 months following a series of injuries.

The loss saw an end to the 37-year-old Spaniard’s highly anticipated return, where crowds were treated to a straight sets victory over Italian Flavio Cobolli in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday.

The Spaniard was playing his first official clay court match in 681 days and beat Cobolli on the “Pista Rafa Nadal,” a court named in his honor.

Nadal broke the 21-year-old Cobolli early, taking a 4-1 lead and claiming the first set in 43 minutes. The Spaniard went on to take the match in an hour and 25 minutes.

However, he was unable to bring the same energy to his second match against De Minaur, who will now advance into the third round to play Arthur Fils or Daniel Altmaier.

Nadal in action during his second round match against Australia's Alex de Minaur. - Albert Gea/Reuters
Nadal in action during his second round match against Australia's Alex de Minaur. - Albert Gea/Reuters

Nadal’s 17th appearance competing for the Trofeo Conde de Godó signaled a straightforward return to the sport after a stop-start return to tennis following several injuries.

The 22-time grand slam singles winner sustained a “micro tear on a muscle” in a quarterfinal defeat to Jordan Thompson in January’s Brisbane International, a tournament which was meant to mark the start of his long-awaited injury comeback after almost a year away from the court.

He later withdrew from this year’s Australian Open.

During a press conference in May 2023, Nadal, who had hip surgery last June, admitted that 2024 is “probably going to be [his] last year on the professional tour,” but last week, he didn’t rule out continuing on beyond this year.

CNN’s Issy Ronald contributed reporting.

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