Madrid, May 4 (EFE).- Rafael Nadal made a successful return to tournament action here Wednesday at the Madrid Open following a six-week injury absence, coming out of the blocks quickly and then winning a tight second set to defeat Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) in second-round play.
The Spanish great had not played an ATP Tour match since suffering a stress fracture in one of his left ribs at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, where he lost in the final to American Taylor Fritz.
Nadal bullied the Serbian with the spin and depth of his ground strokes in the opening set, although his talented, 22-year-old opponent improved his level after a rain delay and forced a tiebreaker by breaking the Grand Slam king’s serve in the 12th game of the second set.
But Nadal, who earned four service breaks in the match and won 62 percent of his opponent’s second-serve points, quickly righted the ship in the tiebreaker to wrap up the victory in just under two hours.
He clinched the victory with an ace on match point.
“I played at a good level, so (I am) very pleased with the victory. I just try to stay humble to know things (are) not going to be perfect here and just moving forward with the right determination, to accept that I need to fight, I need to stay positive,” the fourth-ranked Nadal said in a press conference about his first clay-court match of the 2022 season.
“I need to play with the right attitude and take every single match that I’m able to win like a present to play another time here.”
Nadal, who began the year by winning his second Australian Open title and setting the record for most Grand Slam men’s singles titles (21), is looking to get as many wins under his belt on clay as possible before the French Open kicks off later this month.
In Paris, the 35-year-old Spaniard will be looking to extend his record haul of Roland Garros titles to 14 and take a two-major lead over arch-rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in their Grand Slam title race.
Next up for Nadal in the third round of the Madrid Open will be Belgian qualifier David Goffin, who defeated the Netherlands’ Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday.
In women’s play, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur defeated Romania’s Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday and will next take on qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova, who topped American Amanda Anisimova 6-4, 6-3, in one semifinal.
The other women’s singles semifinal will pit Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, against either American Jessica Pegula or Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. EFE