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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday April 24, 2024


The King of Clay made it look easy on Thursday in Madrid as he rolled to his 476th career clay-court win.

Photo Source: TTV

21 years and 117 days separated 37-year-old Rafael Nadal and his 16-year-old opponent, American wild card Darwin Blanch, on Thursday in Madrid. In terms of experience, the gap was even wider – and the scoreline confirmed said gap.

Tennis Express

Nadal earned a 6-1, 6-0 win over the promising American southpaw, coming through in 63 minutes to set a second-round clash with Australia’s Alex de Minaur in Madrid, and improving his lifetime record at the Caja Majica to 57-14 with five titles.

“Today I played against an opponent with a great future in front of him but today he was still making mistakes,” Nadal said on court after his fourth win of 2024 against two losses. “I just tried to be there and 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 best for the future.”

The 22-time major champion improves to a remarkable 476-46 lifetime on clay – the 14-time Roland-Garros champion has never lost back-to-back matches on his favorite surface.

Nadal may not be in top form at this stage of the season, but it didn’t stop him from having an easy time with Blanch, the talented youngster who trains at Juan Carlos Ferrero’s Academy in Spain and has practiced often with Carlos Alcaraz.

Content to use his experience and consistency, Nadal played it safe and let his opponent make mistakes. He hit nine winners against nine unforced errors against the current junior world No.8, while Blanch hit nine winners against 27 unforced errors.

The Spaniard won 30 of 39 service points and never faced a break point. He broke Blanch five times from nine opportunities in the contest.

“For me, after how things developed over the last few years, every time I have the chance to be on court in this amazing stadium with the unconditional support of the crowd, it means a lot to me,” Nadal said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every moment and tomorrow one more day of practice, and after tomorrow I’ll be on court again, so that makes me feel great.”

In the end the victory amounts to a positive step for Nadal, as he works to find better form ahead of Roland-Garros. The man who owns the most wins (57) and titles (5) in Madrid history will look forward to a rematch to the talented 25-year-old who knocked him out of the Barcelona draw just over a week ago.

At Barcelona, in the second round, De Minaur handed Nadal a 7-5, 6-1 defeat to become the first Aussie to ever beat Nadal on clay.

“I can probably say that I’m very, very fortunate that I didn’t play Rafa a couple years earlier on the clay,” De Minaur said after his win. “It would have been very, very different result. An amazing experience and we move on. It’s been a great year.”

De Minaur has now beaten Nadal twice in succession, but trails in the head-to-head to the Spaniard 3-2. Nadal took their first three meetings but De Minaur has now won four consecutive sets against Nadal, dating back to his 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback against Nadal at the 2023 United Cup.


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