Rafael Nadal makes his return to the tour on Wednesday afternoon, taking on Miomir Kecmanovic for a spot in the third round of Madrid Masters. They have met just once before with Nadal winning in straights at Acapulco two years ago. However, the Serbian continues to improve and is a dangerous opponent for someone low on match play.
Kecmanovic was just inside the top 80 at the start of the year but has surged dramatically in the first four months of the year and comes into the tournament at a career high of 32. He lost all three matches but did push eventual finalists Fritz, Alcaraz and Djokovic to three setters in Indian Wells, Miami and Belgrade respectively.
Nadal last played at Indian Wells, seeing his unbeaten start to the season end in the final there. A rib injury hindered his ability to compete against Taylor Fritz and saw him spend over a month out. “I have improved compared to when I arrived here [in Madrid], but I still have ups and downs, because it’s been a long time. It’s going to be a difficult week,” Nadal said. “That’s the reality. We have to be calm, we have to accept that things are going to be far away from perfection, but then onwards we just have to fight. I’m recovered. I feel good.”
With his beloved Real Madrid in with a chance of making the Champions League final, Nadal will be hoping it is a double celebration for him by the end of the night. The afternoon conditions do usually suit him more with the bounce more preferable for his style of play. He may well have liked a more favourable draw to begin the tournament especially with tougher matches projected in both the fourth round and quarter finals. If seedings hold, it would be Nadal against Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic before the final.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets