Tennis Fans Hail Return of Rafael Nadal, King of Clay, in Barcelona Open

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Clay-court Rafa is back.

Two years after he won his 14th title at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal returned to his dominant court surface in this week’s Barcelona Open.

On Tuesday, playing on a court named after him, Nadal defeated Italian 21-year-old Flavio Cobolli, 6-2, 6-3, to record his 481st career victory on clay, good for third-most all-time. He will face No. 4 seed Alex De Minaur in the second round.

Over the last two years, the 22-time Grand Slam singles champion has struggled through various injuries, most recently dealing with hip and abdominal issues that have kept him off the court since January. 

Entering Tuesday, Nadal’s reputation as a former World No. 1 player may precede him, but his reputation on clay makes his participation at the Barcelona Open all the more entertaining. In ATP history, the 37-year-old Spaniard boasts a 91.3% career winning percentage and has won 63 of his 92 titles on the surface, 12 of which he clinched in Barcelona.

Tennis fans were rightfully excited to see the King of clay back in action. 

Kristen Wong


Kristen Wong is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. She has been a sports journalist since 2020. Before joining SI, Kristen covered four NFL teams as an associate editor with the FanSided NFL Network and worked as a staff writer for the brand’s flagship site. She has written about soccer, the NFL, NBA, and MLB since 2020, and outside of work, has dreams of running her own sporty dive bar.