Rafael Nadal makes emotional confession after convincing Madrid Open victory

Kevin Palmer
Rafael Nadal salutes the Spanish fans at the Madrid Open

An emotional Rafael Nadal admitted he was relieved to play in front of a Spanish crowd for one last time, as he beat 16-year-old Darwin Blanch at the Madrid Open.

The 22-time Grand Slam-winning legend secured a 6-0 6-1 win against his youthful rival in a match that told us little about the kind of level Nadal is playing at.

Prior to this match, Nadal admitted he was nearing the end of his tennis career and may not even be fit enough to play at the French Open in Paris next month and while he was too strong for young Blanch, he faces a much tougher test in his next match.

After his defeat against Alex de Minaur in Barcelona last week, Nadal will play the Australian once again and there is a good chance that the match will mark his last in front of his adoring Spanish fans.

That reailty will be tough for Nadal to deal with over the next couple of days, but he is happy to cherish what he admits may be his final win in Spain.

“Great feelings. Emotional feelings,” said Rafael Nadal, speaking to Sky Sports Tennis. “Playing here has always been a huge pleasure – the support is difficult to describe in words.

“I enjoyed the fact that I could go out there one more time – and the victory too.

“I’m just trying to stay focussed on where I need to be and see how far I can go in terms of pushing my physical performance.

“To play against Alex, I need to keep improving things.

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“Last week I was able to play a very competitive set but in the second I had to give up. Let’s see in two days how far I can go and I’ll just try to enjoy again.

“It’s great after how things have developed the last few years, every time I have the chance to be on court in this amazing stadium with an unconditional supportive crowd, it means a lot to me.

“Just trying to enjoy every moment. Tomorrow, one more day of practice here and then after tomorrow, on court again. That makes me feel great.”

He also offered up words of support to his opponent, who was thrust into the biggest game of his career after he was drawn against one of the game’s all-time greats.

“I think today I played against an opponent with a great future in front of him, but today, still making mistakes,” he added.

“I just tried to be there, be solid all the time without taking a lot of risks,” Nadal said. “It worked well. I’m happy to be through and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

Nadal will now wait to see how his body reacts to to this latest appearance on the ATP Tour and while he looked in good shape against Blanch, his expectations for what comes next are clearly diluted.

With a back problem hindering his serve in recent weeks, every match Nadal plays now could be his last and a packed-out crowd will be back in place in Madrid for what may be his final match on home soil when he takes on De Minaur.