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Tennis-Nadal confirms comeback at Barcelona Open, to face Cobolli

Mon, 15th Apr 2024 14:50

April 15 (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal has confirmed he will play this week's Barcelona Open in what will be the Spaniard's first tournament since January and first appearance on clay since the 2022 French Open.

"I arrived here a bit like in a last minute decision as I didn't know if I was going to be able to play," the 22-time Grand Slam champion told a news conference.

"Tomorrow I'm going to be on the court."

The 37-year-old Nadal, whose last ATP Tour match was in Brisbane before he pulled out of the Australian Open, withdrew from last week's Monte Carlo Masters saying his body was not yet ready for competition.

Former world number one Nadal has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season but is keen to play at the French Open where he has won a record 14 titles. However, his struggle to recover from hip-flexor surgery has cast doubt on whether he could continue his career.

His opening match in Barcelona, where he has won a record 12 titles and the main court is named in his honour, will be against 21-year-old Italian Flavio Cobolli.

Addressing the media after practising on Monday, Nadal said it was a gift to be able to compete in Barcelona.

"I thought 'Can I or can't I?' It has been a difficult two years. I come from a major hip operation, which takes time to recover," he told reporters. "Things happen in the body and I couldn't follow the schedule I wanted...

"My last year and I want to enjoy every moment. I feel ready to play tomorrow. I don't think about how I get there. I know what the situation is, that I'm just preparing, but I'm realistic. For me, being here is a joy."

Nadal, whose dazzling career has included battles with various injuries, said he had practised well in Barcelona.

"I don't know what will happen in the future, but I am going to try to give myself the best opportunity," he said.

"The week of training has been positive and I am living with the hope of doing my best. I can't give you an injury update because the list is long. I can only tell you that today I feel good enough to be on court tomorrow and that means a lot."

Nadal's last claycourt match was thrashing Casper Ruud in the final of the 2022 French Open. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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