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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Saturday, April 13, 2024

The spring clay season is here: Get ready for Rafa Time.

King of clay Rafael Nadal will make his long-awaited comeback on Tuesday in Barcelona when he faces Italian Flavio Cobolli. 

More: Ruud Shocks Djokovic

The Barcelona draw is out and pits Nadal, playing on a protected ranking, against Cobolli in what will be his first ATP-level match since January 5th.

Should Nadal prevail, he would face Monte-Carlo quarterfinalist Alex de Minaur in the second round. If Nadal reaches the Barcelona semifinals, he could face Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz or the man he beat in the Barcelona final, Stefanos Tsitsipas.


A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

“Excited to be here for a few days before the start of the tournament. I’m here to see how it goes," Nadal told the media in Spain. "I can’t wait to try and play.”

In the 22-time Grand Slam champion's last match last January, Aussie Jordan Thompson saved three match points in the second set sparking a 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-3 comeback conquest of Nadal to reach his first hard-court semifinal at the Brisbane International.

In the Brisbane loss, the 37-year-old Spanish superstar suffered a microtear to a muscle around where he had his left hip flexor surgically repaired last June. Nadal has been practicing regularly. And while he faced Carlos Alcaraz in the Netflix Slam exhibition in Las Vegas in early March, Nadal was subsequently forced to withdraw from both Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo.

Sporting a red sleeveless Nike t-shirt, Nadal hit the practice court in Barcelona hitting with Andrey Rublev.

Nineteen years ago, Nadal defeated former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-3, to capture his maiden Barcelona title in the 2005 final.


A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

Now, Nadal is poised to return to Barcelona with fans pumped for a potential Nadal v. Alcaraz semifinal showdown.

Photo credit: Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell Facebook