Rafael Nadal‘s second match on his way back to the Madrid Open began with chaos. The Spaniard, who faced a defeat against Alex De Minaur in Barcelona, played him once again, seeking revenge. While the fans were excited enough to witness the intense showdown between the players, their attention was drawn to a heated argument between Nadal and the chair umpire.

The fans welcomed the ‘King of Clay’ with immense chants of his name and Nadal started strongly as he broke immediately and led 2-0. But he soon found himself in trouble, trailing 15-30. It was during this that he stopped in the middle of a rally and circled a ball as he believed that one of De Minaur’s shots had gone long. But the chair umpire, Fergus Murphy awarded the point to the Australian.

With Madrid Open using the electronic line calling, players are required to challenge the call. Nadal lost the point after not officially challenging. The Spaniard approached the chair umpire with his claim, but the official explained, “I did not see you making any challenge. You didn’t say anything. You have to use the system.” Being totally confused with his explanation, Nadal responded, “I just stopped. I have to say challenge? Is that new?” Rafa said, taking a firm stand on his call.


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Furthermore, Nadal protested that it was clear he wanted to challenge the call. “If I stop, I mark that ball that doesn’t mean I want to keep playing?” he retorted. However, Murphy remained firm in his decision, adding: “Rafael, what you need to do is challenge quickly. I saw you stopping but I didn’t see any challenge.” But Nadal was not having it.

He demanded to see the supervisor straight away. “Call the supervisor,” Rafa said, confident about his claim. The five-time Madrid Open champion further went on to argue, saying it was Murphy’s fault, “It’s your fault – if I stop and mark the ball – it’s your fault that you say that I want to keep playing, you not understanding.”

Amid jeers and whistles, the argument continued. The umpire responded to Nadal and said, “But I saw everything, I just didn’t see you challenging. I need you to do something.” Nadal continued to make his case and replied, “I stopped, I do like this, that means I want to keep playing? That’s your understanding?” 

The Hawkeye system on clay is rather new. Under the previous challenging system on clay, players needed to ring a mark around the ball and ask the umpire to come down to check it. However, it seems Nadal was unaware that he needed to verbally ask for a challenge. This could be due to the fact that this is just his third official tournament since January 2023.

He returned to the baseline but De Minaur broke him for a second time to take a 4-3 advantage. However, he managed to regain his focus and avenged his Barcelona defeat.


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Nadal edges closer to old form with Top-20 Win, but health concerns linger

Rafael Nadal stormed back to cancel out De Minaur’s lead and delighted his home crowd with a hard-fought 7-6(6), 6-3 victory. This win marks his first against a Top 20 opponent in the PIF ATP Rankings since the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals. While, on one hand, Nadal was quick to deny that the old Rafa was back, he was happy to advance on home soil.

“No, not yet. It needs time,” he said laughing. “I’m super happy to be able to be competitive against a great player like Alex..It means a lot to me”. Despite his impressive performance and rising form on the court, Nadal expressed concerns that his physical health remains a major obstacle.


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“I really believe that tennis hasn’t been an issue for the last two years. More the physical issues,” Rafa said per ATPTour.com. “If I am able to play weeks in a row and if I am able to play tennis, then I’m going to see how far I can go and how competitive I could be. But that’s not the case yet, just step by step and let’s see how I recover.”

Every Rafa fan would hope their idol maintains this momentum and takes home some good memories in what could be his last tournament on home soil, before his imminent retirement.