Alex de Minaur twist as Rafa Nadal announcement excites tennis fans before French Open

The 22-time grand slam champion is playing his first ATP event since January.

Rafa Nadal has confirmed he will make his return to the ATP Tour at the Barcelona Open this week, and he's on a collision course with Alex de Minaur. The Spanish tennis champion hasn't played since the Brisbane International in January, but he's set to ramp up his match fitness with an eye to playing the French Open next month.

The 37-year-old has skipped a number of big tournaments in recent months, and is clearly intent on making sure he is in top shape for Roland Garros. "I arrived here a bit like in a last minute decision as I didn't know if I was going to be able to play," the 22-time grand slam champion told a press conference on Monday in Barcelona. "Tomorrow I'm going to be on the court.

Rafa Nadal and Alex de Minaur.
Rafa Nadal will face Alex de Minaur in the second round of the Barcelona Open if he wins his first match. Image: Getty

“I can’t give you an injury update because the list is long and I just want to think about what can happen. I can only tell you that today I feel myself, enough good to be on court tomorrow and that for me is so important.

“It means a lot to me to be able to play one more time here in Barcelona, a place that I have amazing success and a lot of unforgettable memories. So, I am just trying to enjoy every moment and I am excited about being on court in a professional tournament again, especially here at home.”


If Nadal wins he will face Australia's top-ranked player de Minaur. Nadal's first match will be on Tuesday (local time) against 21-year-old Italian Flavio Cobolli, with the winner to meet de Minaur - who has received a first round bye. Nadal and de Minaur have played four times in their careers but only once since 2020 - in the United Cup last year when de Minaur beat the Spanish great 3-6 6-1 7-5.

Rafa Nadal, pictured here on the practice court at the Barcelona Open.
Rafa Nadal on the practice court at the Barcelona Open.

Rafa Nadal grateful to be back playing tennis in final season

Nadal was expected to play at the Monte Carlo Masters last week, but said his body was not ready for competition. The former World No.1 is expected to retire at some stage this year, with many predicting the French Open (where he has won a record 14 titles) will be his farewell.

He has won the Barcelona title 12 times but hasn't played in the clay-court event since 2021. "More than lamenting where I wasn't able to be, I prefer to be happy that I am here," Nadal said on Monday. "On a personal level it is a gift for me to be in Barcelona. I'm taking this as my last year and I want to enjoy every moment.

"We'll keep going forward until I have the feeling that it's not worth it. I'm not putting a deadline on that, but as I've said, in the end life marks your path for you.

“That is what I have been doing my whole life. To think about what is going on day-by-day and just try to adapt to the situation, try to be able to improve under any circumstances to be a better player. That is what I did all my life and it worked well.

“Now I am in a different perspective of my tennis career, a different moment and I am trying to enjoy every moment. I was not able to spend a lot of days on tour over the last two years, so I just want to enjoy every day I am able to play with the guys on a professional level. That means a lot for me.”

Nadal had been on course to face Spanish compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals in Barcelona, but the 20-year-old was forced to withdraw on Sunday because of fitness concerns. "Let's hope he recovers well and quickly, it's bad for the tournament because he's the top seed," said Nadal. "[But] I'm not in a position to be thinking about the semi-finals."

with agencies