Nadal sets sights on Roland-Garros 

Having returned to competitive action in Barcelona, Rafael Nadal now has Roland-Garros firmly in his thoughts.

Rafael Nadal Barcelone 2024©Pau Barrena / AFP
 - Amandine Reymond

All eyes were on Spain and Barcelona in particular this week, and not just because Paris Saint-Germain were in town for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. What was capturing the attention of tennis fans around the world was the eagerly awaited return of Rafael Nadal following a three-month layoff. And while his army of fans were not totally convinced by the King of Clay’s comeback, it nevertheless yielded some encouraging signs. 

His first-round straight-sets win over Italy’s Flavio Cobolli (6-2 6-3) was the man from Mallorca’s first on the Tour since he beat Jason Kubler in Brisbane on 4 January. Delivering a commanding performance, the Spaniard produced some clean hitting but looked tentative at times on serve and in his movements around court.

Though defeated 7-5 6-1 in the second round by world No. 11 Alex de Minaur, "Rafa" was keen to accentuate the positive at the end of his week in Barcelona.  

“I feel much more comfortable and happier today than one week and a half ago,” he said. “I was able to play two matches and played against a great player. I was not very far away, without a doubt. I feel if I’m able to keep practising days on the Tour, and my body allows me to spend hours on court and have practices the way that I need, I hope to be competitive. I hope and believe I can be competitive in a few weeks. That’s the way that I need to proceed today, and to give me a chance to be ready at least to compete at Roland-Garros.”

All or nothing in Paris

Having now bid farewell to Barcelona and a tournament close to his heart after 12 titles there, Nadal is now focusing on Roland-Garros, where he has lifted the trophy 14 times

“The main thing today was not necessarily to win but to come out feeling good from this tournament, and that’s what happened,” he added. “Sometimes it’s difficult to play when you know that you maybe can’t fight all the way to the end of the match, which was the case today. But I hope to be able to do that in a few weeks. After everything that’s happened to me these last few weeks, it wasn’t the time to try and be a hero. Today was about being careful and doing things in the most intelligent way possible. I knew when I lost the first set that the match was over. 

“On a personal level, for what is to come, the 6-1 in the second set is what had to happen today. That’s the way that I need to proceed today, and to give me a chance to be ready at least to compete at Roland-Garros. I will try to take a step further in Madrid, then another one in Rome and, in Paris. There is the moment to do it, whatever happens. There is no better place to.

And so, on to Paris in May, when Nadal will hope to step out for the 19th Roland-Garros of his glittering career.