Nadal cruises to straight-set win over American teenager in first round of Madrid Open

MADRID — Rafael Nadal didn’t need much effort as he cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over American teenager Darwin Blanch in the first round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

Nadal looked in good form for just his third competitive match since returning from his latest injury layoff. He had made his return in Barcelona last week, losing in the second round to Alex De Minaur, who will also be his second-round opponent in Madrid on Saturday.

“I hope I can give my best and be competitive against De Minaur,” Nadal said. “Every time I have the chance to be on court in this amazing stadium with an unconditional supportive crowd, it means a lot to me. Just trying to enjoy every moment. Tomorrow, one more day of practice here and then after tomorrow, on court again. That makes me feel great.”

The 37-year-old Nadal was in control from the start against the 16-year-old wild-card entry, closing the match in just over one hour at the Caja Magica center court in the Spanish capital.

The encounter marked the largest age gap (21 years, 117 days) between two opponents at an ATP 1000 tournament.

Blanch, playing only in his second ATP tour match, made 27 unforced errors. Nadal never faced a break point.

“I think today I played against an opponent with a great future,” Nadal said. “But today, still making mistakes. I just tried to be there, be solid all the time without taking a lot of risks. It worked well. I’m happy to be through and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

Nadal had arrived in Madrid saying he was not 100% fit, and that he was only going to play because the clay-court tournament was at home.

On Wednesday, the record five-time champion in Madrid said that in his current condition he would not play if this was the French Open, a tournament he has won a record 14 times.

The Spaniard is trying to get back in shape for the tournament in Paris for what will likely be his last Roland Garros appearance. The French Open begins next month.

A 22-time Grand Slam champion, Nadal had hip surgery last summer and said 2024 would probably be his last year on tour. He had skipped Monte Carlo, and his last tournament had been in Brisbane in January, when he played three matches.


AP tennis:

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