'Realist' Nadal begins Madrid farewell with victory over teen Blanch

'Realist' Nadal begins Madrid farewell with victory over teen Blanch


Rafael Nadal beat Darwin Blanch 6-1, 6-0 to reach the Madrid Open second round.

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MADRID (AFP) – Rafael Nadal breezed to a straight sets victory over 16-year-old Darwin Blanch to reach the Madrid Open second round on Thursday as he began his farewell appearance in the Spanish capital.

The 37-year-old said this week he was not fully fit but demolished his American opponent 6-1, 6-0 in one hour and three minutes as he continues his comeback from injury.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, is expecting 2024 to be his final season in tennis and this his last appearance at the Madrid Open.

He made his first competitive appearance since January at the Barcelona Open last week, where he was defeated in the second round by Alex de Minaur.

The Australian will be Nadal's second round opponent in Madrid too as the Spaniard tries to find form and fitness ahead of Rome and then the French Open, where he is the record 14-time winner.

"For me it has always been a pleasure to play in front of you all," said Nadal.

"The support I've received here since the first time I played is hard to compare to anywhere else, so I can only say thank you."

Despite the ease of his victory, Nadal said it did not mean anything in terms of his prospects of competing at his beloved Roland Garros.

"I'm not a results based guy, I'm a realist about what happens, I was playing against a player with good potential but who makes huge amounts of errors," Nadal told reporters.

"It doesn't change my perspective on Paris and it will not change here, I'll make a decision after Rome."

Nadal broke in the second game against the overpowered and initially overawed American, ranked 1,028th in the world.

Blanch got on the board in the fourth game but Nadal broke again in the sixth after the youngster drove a forehand into the net.

Blanch saved two break points at the start of the second set but Nadal converted the third to take further control.

The merciless tennis great broke again after an entertaining rally for a 3-0 lead and once more when Blanch went long to make it 5-0.

Nadal served it out, triumphing on his second match point with a powerful serve that Blanch could not control to set up the De Minaur rematch.

"Last week it couldn't be," said Nadal, who lost 7-5, 6-1 to the Australian in Barcelona.

"This week will surely be very difficult. I'm going to have the opportunity to play, which is almost a gift, so I'm happy to get on the court again.

"I will try to be competitive, as much as I can -- he is a difficult player playing at a very high level."