‘There is progress’: Nadal continues comeback to reach last 16 in Madrid

‘There is progress’: Nadal continues comeback to reach last 16 in Madrid

As Rafael Nadal continues to build the physical robustness, intensity and form required to be competitive over five sets against the best players in the world at the French Open, he took another step forward in his comeback by holding firm in a nervy, turbulent contest to reach the fourth round of the Madrid Open with a 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Pedro Cachín of Argentina.

Having started the tournament with ample uncertainty after mostly being off the tour for the past 18 months due to various injuries, Nadal continues to make clear progress. Two days after seeing off Alex de Minaur, the 10th seed, in the second round, Nadal maintained his intensity across a three-hour, four-minute battle with Cachín, the world No 91, and he elevated his level in the decisive moment of the third set.

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“Three and a half weeks ago, I was in Manacor almost unable to get out and move, losing to the guys from the academy day after day,” said Nadal. “Now I’m with the guys on the tour again. And winning. There is progress, and it has to be valued positively, no matter how small. Although I am in a different situation in my career, I think I have built it by valuing small improvements. I am trying to go through this process again even though it is a much more complicated task.”

With all men’s fourth-round matches played on Tuesday, Nadal faces another significant challenge as he tries to recover to face Jiri Lehecka, a talented 22-year-old Czech seeded 30th, at 10pm local time. Nadal says that his body feels fine, in contrast to his three-set match against Jordan Thompson in January, which led to another three-month lay off. Still, he will have to wait and see how he feels in the morning.

“I don’t have that negative feeling now like I had in that moment, but nobody knows what can happen during the night and how I wake up tomorrow morning,” said Nadal. “And that’s the truth, no? I’m not saying that because I’m trying to protect myself. I am talking with my heart and saying exactly the feelings that I have right now. Let’s wait for tomorrow. I hope nothing happens, and I hope to be on court tomorrow.”

Casper Ruud, the fifth seed, ended 29th seed Cameron Norrie’s hopes of a deep run in Madrid, winning 6-2, 6-4 on Monday night. In the women’s draw, Iga Swiatek, the top seed, dominated the home favourite Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarter-finals and the in-form fourth seed Elena Rybakina eased past Sara Bejlek 6-1, 6-3.