Rafael Nadal Nets First Top 20 Win Since 2022 With Victory at Madrid Open

The Spaniard defeated world No. 11 Alex de Minaur in straight sets.
Rafael Nadal advanced to the third round at the Madrid Open after his victory over Alex de Minaur on Saturday.
Rafael Nadal advanced to the third round at the Madrid Open after his victory over Alex de Minaur on Saturday. / Albert Cesare / USA TODAY NETWORK

Rafael Nadal defeated world No. 11 Alex de Minaur 7–6 (6), 6–3 in the second round of the Madrid Open on Saturday, earning his first ATP Tour victory vs. an opponent ranked inside the top 20 since November of 2022.

Nadal, 37, at times showed flashes of the form that helped him win 22 Grand Slams in his career. The Spaniard had his signature, lefty forehand-down-the-line shot working well, in addition to his crosscourt backhand, which he fired for winners multiple times.

Nadal, with a raucous crowd behind him, won a thrilling, 77-minute first set in a tiebreak, then quickly broke de Minaur's serve to grab a second set lead he would not relinquish.

When told during a post-match interview that it seemed like "the old Rafa Nadal was back," Nadal pushed back on the notion.

"No, no, no not yet," Nadal said with a laugh. "It needs time, and I think for moments have been good level of tennis. I was able to do positive things but still on and off."

Nadal missed nearly the entire 2023 season after requiring surgery on his hip, an injury that had the decorated tennis pro pondering retirement going into 2024. On Wednesday, Nadal would not fully commit to playing in the French Open, a tournament he has won a record 14 times.

If he can maintain the form he displayed Saturday while staying healthy, it's likely he'll be on the court at Roland Garros when the French Open begins on May 20.

Tim Capurso


Tim Capurso is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Previously he wrote for RotoBaller and ClutchPoints, where he was the lead editor for MLB, College Football and NFL coverage. A lifelong Yankees and Giants fan, Tim grew up just outside New York City and now lives near Philadelphia. When he's not writing, Tim enjoys reading, exercising and spending time with his family, including his three-legged cat Willow, who, unfortunately, is an Eagles fan.