Nadal Eliminated In His Fourth Match At Madrid Open By Inspired Lehecka

Nadal Eliminated In His Fourth Match At Madrid Open By Inspired Lehecka

by Erik Virostko

Rafael Nadal was getting up to speed at the 2024 Madrid Open, but he was stopped by an inspired Jiri Lehecka.

The Spanish player entered the second clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the season without any major expectations. The draw was nice to him, as he played against 16-year-old Darwin Blanch, and easily handled the match against the teenager.

That wasn't so surprising, but what was surprising was his second-round win over Alex de Minaur, especially because he lost to the Australian the week before at the Barcelona Open.

After that, he played a challenging match, his first three-setter at the tournament, but still, he outplayed Pedro Cachin in three sets to reach the fourth round of the Madrid Open.

As a five-time champion at the event, his goals may have been much higher, but no one really knew what Nadal's goals really were, as he didn't want to deal with expectations and downplayed his ambitions ahead of the tournament.

Facing the 30th-seeded Lehecka, who beat him during the practice set they played on clay recently, was certainly a proper challenge for the 22-time major winner, and it became apparent why quite quickly in the match.

The 37-year-old had the first break point in the match, having a chance to go into a 5-3 lead in the first set. But after he left his chance unused, he let the Czech player unleash the beast that was hiding inside of him.

From 4-5 and 40-40, Lehecka won 12 consecutive points, winning the first set 7-5, and setting himself up to start the second set with a break, which he ulimately did, after winning 16 out of 17 points from 4-5 and 40-40 to 7-5, 1-0 and 30-0.

Nadal, like he always does, kept fighting. He saved three break points in the third game, and dealt with another difficult situation in the fifth game, which were both his service games, but he needed to be dangerous also on the return.

But Lehecka's serving performance in this match was just too good, and that's why the 14-time French Open champion couldn't recover the lost break in the second set of the match.

As a result, Lehecka was able to win the match 7-5, 6-4, booking the quarter-final match against the third-seeded Daniil Medvedev at the tournament.

For Nadal, the Madrid Open serves as a great indicator about his level. He came into the event wanting to play just one match, and he got to play four, experiencing different conditions and playing against different opponents.

Up next, the Spanish player will be looking to book his flight ticket to Rome, as he'll likely compete at the 2024 Italian Open, which should be his last tournament before he heads to Paris for the French Open.


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