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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday April 17, 2024

Rafael Nadal played – and lost – what was likely his last match in Barcelona on Wednesday, falling to Alex de Minaur 7-5, 6-1.

Tennis Express

While it may be seen as a sad moment, watching the greatest clay-courter in tennis history dispatched rather easily, Nadal himself sees his two matches in Barcelona as a positive, hopeful step.

The 12-time Barcelona champion says he is encouraged by the way he played this week, especially given the fact that he had very little practice leading up to the event.

“I didn’t practice a lot, so [my performance] encourages me to keep going,” he said. “It tells me that, if I’m able to spend days on the Tour and keep practicing with the players, I really hope and believe that I can keep being competitive – if my body allows me to push the way that I need.”

The 37-year-old Spaniard, who ended the day with an astounding 67-5 lifetime record at Barcelona, didn’t think he’d turn up in good enough shape to compete in Barcelona, but recent developments with his body allowed him to give it a shot. More important, Nadal played well enough at times to fuel hope that he may be able to dial up much more menacing form later this spring.

“I feel much more comfortable and happier today than one week and a half ago,” he said. “I was able to manage to play two matches, played against a great player (in Alex de Minaur). I was not very far, without a doubt.”

Nadal is hopeful that he can continue building on the progress he made this week and take one last crack at Roland-Garros in much better form.

“I hope to be competitive. I hope and believe I can be competitive in a few weeks,” said the Spaniard. “That’s the way that I need to proceed today, and to give me a chance to be ready at least to compete at Roland Garros.

Nadal says he plans to play the Madrid Masters, which begins next week, next. All the while he'll have his sights set on Paris, where he has created the bulk of his incredible legacy on clay, winning a record 14 titles.

“I will try to take a step further in Madrid, then another one in Rome and, in Paris... there is the moment to do it, whatever happens, there is no better place to," he said.