Rafael Nadal eyes Barcelona return and could ‘make the final’, says Stefanos Tsitsipas

Nadal has not played a tournament on the ATP Tour since January but could return to action in Spain this week

Kieran Jackson
Monday 15 April 2024 09:53 BST
Nadal’s Body “Won’t Allow” Him To Compete In Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal could return to action this week in Barcelona and play just his second event of an injury-hit season - and Stefanos Tsitsipas said it would be no surprise to see him battling for the title in the final.

Nadal, who has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season, returned to the tour in Brisbane in January after nearly a year out with a hip flexor injury but the 37-year-old has not played an ATP tournament since due to a muscle issue.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion looked set to make another comeback at the Monte Carlo Masters this month but withdrew days before the start of the tournament, saying his body would not allow him to play.

Nadal, who has won the Barcelona title 12 times, is drawn to play Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday and while he has not yet confirmed his availability, Tsitsipas said the Spaniard would have no trouble finding form on his favourite clay-court surface.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Rafa in the final of Barcelona, because that’s something he has done over and over again for years and years,” Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo title for a third time on Sunday, told reporters.

“What he does have is this competitiveness and this fierce tennis when he gets into the momentum that sometimes feels like on the outside perspective unstoppable... I think he’s the ultimate challenge on clay.

Rafael Nadal could make a return to action in Barcelona this week
Rafael Nadal could make a return to action in Barcelona this week (Getty Images)

“Whether he’s playing now at, let’s say, later stages of his career or the ones before, what he has now that he didn’t before is experience, and he for sure knows ways to win points and to prevail more in economy mode than before.”

World number seven Tsitsipas, a three-time runner-up in Barcelona, will aim to carry his good form from Monaco to Spain after winning his first title of the season with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday.

“I did need a week like this a lot, especially (after) the rough months I’ve been through the latter half of 2023 until now,” Tsitsipas said.

“It hasn’t been the best of times in terms of where I wanted to be, so getting back here and winning the title is something I was definitely not aiming for and it came naturally.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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