The comeback of the Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal at the clay court tournament in Barcelona ended early. The 37-year-old deservedly lost his second round match against number four seeded Australian Alex de Minaur 5:7, 1:6.

The 22-time Grand Slam tournament winner missed the third round for only the second time in his 17th and probably last start in Barcelona. Daniel Altmaier is also eliminated. The Kempen player lost in the evening against the Frenchman Arthur Fils 4:6, 6:1, 1:6.

In his second match after a compulsory break of more than three months, Nadal, record winner of the tournament, clearly noticed the lack of rhythm and, towards the end, the dwindling strength. Nadal made 42 unforced errors and only hit 11 winners. De Minaur had relatively little trouble winning the duel with the first match point after 1:51 hours. He is the first Australian to beat Nadal on clay.

That was an “outstanding experience,” said de Minaur afterwards. His plan was to “make the match physical” and “move” his opponent, who is twelve years older than him, but that is never easy against him.

Encouraging applause from the audience

The numerous fans saw off the Spaniard on the Pista Rafa Nadal with encouraging applause. Nadal had already raved about the support of the Spanish fans after his opening match. “It means a lot to me to go out on the pitch and feel the warmth and support in this very special place,” he said: “It’s so helpful and means a lot to me.”

In the first round, Nadal won confidently in two sets on his favorite surface against the Italian Flavio Cobolli. Due to a long-term hip injury after the Australian Open in January 2023, he canceled all tournament participation. This year, the Spaniard made his comeback before the first Grand Slam tournament of the year in Brisbane, but was injured again there and then did not play a match again until his Barcelona appearance.

The sporting highlight of the clay court season is the French Open, which begins in Paris at the end of May and where Nadal is the record winner. The Spaniard had already announced last year that 2024 would most likely be his last year on the tennis tour.