Emotions overflow as Rafael Nadal defeats American kid Blanch in Madrid

Rafael Nadal with an outrageous stroke
Rafael Nadal with an outrageous stroke (PC: X)

For a man who has won 22 Grand Slam titles in a decorated career; winning even one match on the ATP Tour has generated enormous excitement. No guesses, Rafael Nadal has again shown to hordes of fans the flicker can sometimes be brighter than a flame, as he defeated Darwin Blanch 6-1, 6-0. Usually, this kind of a result from Rafa would have found mention of just a few paras in newspapers.

No, this is the era of social media, where Nadal still commands respect. Mercifully, tennis fan are less toxic, in comparison to ‘cricket fans’ or trolls, despite their temptation to get into the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate over Novak Djokovic versus Rafa. After all, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma being abused is no joke.

Indeed, Nadal showcasing his clay-court skills in the brick red clay in Madrid, Spain, was received with thunderous applause. One would have thought, Blanch, 21 years and 117 days younger than ageing warrior Nadal would play hard tennis. Perhaps, he was overcome by the very fact he was playing against a legend in front of a sell-out crowd.

In Europe, the tennis fans are literate. They have seen Nadal play for well over two decades. The 14-time French Open champion has been struggling, big time. His appearances at any tennis event are a luxury these days. He wakes up in bed, not sure if his body will hold up. Mind you, he trains like a monster, yet, the fear lingers, if something will snap.

Last week, Nadal had lost to Alex de Minaur. Nadal again runs into de Minaur, aware he can be beaten, in the next round. Nadal has no pretensions of being in best shape or form, yet, he has made it clear winning every match for him counts these days.

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Rafael Nadal in action
Rafael Nadal in action (PC: X)

This was just the sixth match of the season for Nadal. Each appearance has been a rare one, making it a privilege for tennis fans to watch the legend live in the flesh.

“I just tried to be there, solid all time, without taking risks. It worked and I am happy to be through,” said Nadal later while interacting with the media on Friday night.

Rafael Nadal is aware more than the fans and critics, to be on court is in itself a big deal.

”It’s great, after how things have developed the last few years, every time I have the chance to be on court in this amazing stadium with an unconditional supportive crowd, it means a lot to me,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard is enjoying every moment, letting it sink in that this year or the next few months will be his last on the punishing tennis circuit. At the same time, Nadal is not putting too much pressure on himself.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal (PC: X)

If Nadal was playing in Madrid, a few hours before that, Amelie Mauresmo, tournament director at the French Open, had mentioned in Paris, they were going to wait for the champion. Everyone knows, to be competing for two weeks at a Grand Slam is hard. The French Open begins on May 26.

Nadal, himself, is unsure if he wants to go to Paris and get bumped out early in the season’s second Grand Slam. But then, he is at this stage in his career where he does not know what will happen even today or a day later. That is the unpredictable part, despite the incandescent form one got to see from Nadal on Friday, where the southpaw’s flashy forehand caught the eye.

Basically, it’s like, take it each day. Nadal’s mind and heart are goading him to play, sadly the body is not always cooperating. He has pushed hard out of choice, for tennis is a pro sport where the individual decides. The conflict is internal for Nadal, where he does not know what will break down next.
To be here in this theatre called clay court tennis in Europe, it’s a privilege each day. To see Nadal fight is the story, but do not hype it as him being ready for seven matches in a row at the French Open. That can wait. So can his participation in Paris at the Olympics in July.

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