Rafael Nadal made to work in injury comeback victory vs Kecmanovic at Madrid Open

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Rafael Nadal faced a tough test in the first match of his comeback as he needed an hour and 55 minutes to defeat Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 7-6(4). The world No 4 was returning from a six-week injury layoff and playing his first match on the clay this season.

Nadal was playing his first match in 45 days after being sidelined with a rib injury he had picked up in Indian Wells. Despite admitting he was still undercooked heading into Madrid, he started off looking his usual dominant self on the clay as he dropped just one game to Kecmanovic in the opening set before things got tricky.

It was a strong start for the world No 4 in his comeback match, as he won five games on the bounce from 1-1 to close out the opening set in 36 minutes. He broke the Serb’s serve twice, winning 55 percent of return points while also remaining strong on his own serve, winning 74 percent of the points.

The five-time former champion took a bathroom break at the conclusion of the opening set and Kecmanovic was able to stop the Spaniard’s run of form at the start of the second, holding to 30. The match was suspended with Nadal serving at 0-1 0-15 in the second set as heavy rain started to fall, with the roof needing to be closed on court Manolo Santana.

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During the break in play, Kecmanovic could be seen deep in conversation with his coach David Nalbandian – the former world No 3 who became the only man to beat Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament in Madrid back in 2007 when he won the title, as Prime Video reported he was telling his charge to play more to Nadal’s backhand.

The advice seemed to work as the 22-year-old managed to set up his first break point when play resumed after half an hour but Nadal held on and was gifted two break points of his own at 2-2 thanks to a double fault from the Serb, firing a forehand winner to take the lead. Kecmanovic had clearly raised his level after the rain delay as he broke back and managed to save a break point in a lengthy, nine-minute game to lead 4-3.

The world No 4 let out a loud “vamos” when he finally pounced and broke to lead 6-5 and give himself the chance to serve for the match. But the home favourite wasn’t in the clear yet as he gifted the break back to Kecmanovic with  series of errors, forcing a tiebreak.

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It was the third seed who was first to pounce in the breaker, taking a mini-break lead a 3-2 before the world No 32 responded, immediately levelling things at 3-3. Kecmanovic netted a forehand to give Nadal a 5-4 lead, putting him within two points of the match with two serve opportunities.

An overhead smash set up match point as the Spaniard gave a double fist-pump, and he was finally able to close out the tough opening match with an ace, winning through 6-1 7-6(4).

Nadal will next face the winner of a clash between David Goffin and Botic van de Zandschulp. Carlos Alcaraz also lies in his quarter of the draw with Novak Djokovic in the same half, meaning there could be a potential semi-final between the two rivals on the cards.



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