Nadal made his comeback in Madrid last week after fracturing his rib in Indian Wells and sitting on the sidelines for six weeks. He made it to the quarter-finals where he suffered his first defeat in three matches to his young countryman 6-2 1-6 6-3. And it seems the 35-year-old is wasting no time as he is already in Rome with two practice sessions lined up on Sunday.
The Italian Open is the last tournament the 13-time French Open champion will play before bidding for a record 14th title in Paris and 22nd Grand Slam overall. And it will be a crucial event for Nadal, who is fresh off the back of a six-week injury layoff and hoping to get some matches in before the most successful event of his career.
The world No 4 posted a photo of himself flying over the Caja Magica in Madrid en route to Italy on Saturday evening, as his conqueror Alcaraz was busy defeating world No 1 Novak Djokovic, and has already taken to the practice court in Rome. Nadal hit with Marc Lopez, who is fresh off the back of his retirement in Madrid, and will be back for another practice session with Andrey Rublev, who also lost in the quarters this week.
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Nadal’s attention is now already firmly with the Italian Open, where he is the defending champion. He faces either John Isner or a qualifier in his first round and has Djokovic in his half, so it could be a semi-final meeting between last year’s finalists after Nadal was denied a grudge match with his French Open conqueror when he lost to Alcaraz.
The 19-year-old will be safely away in the other half of the draw, meaning the only chance for Nadal and Alcaraz to face off for a fourth time will come in the final. Nadal will then head to Paris for the French Open, where he fell to Djokovic in the semi-final last year.