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The Return of Rafa

Rafael Nadal’s long awaited return from potentially career-ending injury resulted in an impressive straight-sets victory last night, but is the ‘King of Clay’ back just in time for Roland Garros?


Here’s Rafa!


As the ‘King of Clay’ returns to slam his racket through the proverbial ATP door in search of more clay court glory, is he ready to once again compete with the best?


Well it certainly didn’t look like Nadal hadn’t been on a clay court since the 2022 Roland Garros final, as he demolished 21 year old Flávio Cobolli 6-2, 6-3 in Barcelona.


But the question still remains as to whether the great man’s fitness can hold up in the long run, especially when it comes to the Grand Slams.


Nadal will now play in the round of 32 against the 4th seed in Barcelona, Alex de Minaur. If anyone is going to test Nadal’s stamina it will be de Minaur, who himself is having a very good year on tour, picking up the Acapulco 500 title back in March.


De Minaur is a relentless player, with excellent court coverage who will push Nadal’s fitness all the way.


That said, there is no more daunting a task in tennis than playing Nadal on clay, and this mental pressure can not be overlooked.


If Nadal’s fitness is, as he says it is, back to a good level, then the fear of playing him alone may be enough to get him the victory against several opponents.


This match against de Minaur is so much more than just the round of 32 at the Barcelona 500, it is the key for everything for Nadal fans.


If he beats a player like de Minaur, who thrives on his fitness and determination, then they will be increasingly confident that Rafa can win his 15th Roland Garros title in June.


One group who is seemingly very confident in Nadal’s Roland Garros homecoming are the bookmakers, who have him between 4 and 7/1 to win the 2024 French Open.


Fantasies aside, it is unlikely that Nadal will be able to beat the likes of Alcaraz, Sinner and Djokovic, even on his beloved clay courts, but his return is still exciting.


Several clay court tournaments lie between us and Roland Garros, including two Master’s events in Madrid and Rome, which will provide us ample clues as to just how well Nadal is playing.


Can Rafa win Roland Garros again?


The next few weeks will be crucial.   



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