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Tennis: “Much better than expected…”, Nadal passed a conclusive test ahead of the clay court season

At 37, Rafael Nadal may not have said his last word. Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who is trying to return to the highest level after several injuries, felt “much better than expected” on Sunday during an exhibition match against his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

The two players faced each other at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, for a friendly match broadcast live on the Netflix platform, three days before the start of the Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells.

“The level of tennis is one thing, the ghost of injuries is another,” said Nadal during the match, won by Alcaraz (3-6, 6-4, 14-12).

“During the first set, I played at a good level, even though I hadn’t played for a long time,” said the 37-year-old winner of 22 Grand Slam titles. After missing almost the entire 2023 season, Nadal hopes to return to the highest level. He played in Brisbane in January before having to withdraw from the Australian Open due to a muscle injury.

With a view to yet another comeback attempt, the man with fourteen titles at Roland Garros has set up his base camp in the Californian desert for several days in order to prepare for the Indian Wells tournament (6-17 March), first Masters 1000 of the 2024 season. Hard-court tournament which he won three times (2007, 2009, 2013) and of which he reached the final again in 2022.

If no light flashes too long on the dashboard, Nadal plans to continue in Miami during the second half of March, which would take him with a few matches towards the clay season. The objective is, of course, the Roland-Garros tournament (May 26-June 9), where he is aiming for a fifteenth title. A stadium at Porte d’Auteuil where the Olympic title will also be played next summer (July 27-August 4).

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