Nadal To Play His Lowest-Ranked Opponent Ever In First Round Of 2024 Madrid Open

Nadal To Play His Lowest-Ranked Opponent Ever In First Round Of 2024 Madrid Open

by Nurein Ahmed

The draw for this year's Madrid Open was released, and Rafael Nadal was presented with an unusual opening match to kick off his campaign.

Main draw action at the tournament begins on April 24th, and five-time champion Nadal is among the 96 men looking to get into rhythm ahead of Roland Garros.

Even in the absence of world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, the field is pretty stacked, with a slew of top-ranked players, like two-time defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner.

Nadal was present during the draw ceremony, where he discovered firsthand that he would face 16-year-old Darwin Blanch in the first round, a youngster who is billed as the best of his age group by tennis fans.

Blanch has been ranked as high as fourth in the junior rankings but is still largely a rookie on the main tour with an ATP ranking of world no. 1028. He played his first ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Miami in March but lost in straight sets to Tomas Machac.

Just like in Florida, the American prodigy has been granted a wild card to compete in Madrid. It's an instance of baptism by the fire as he will play in his first tour-level match on clay against undoubtedly the greatest clay-court player of all time.

Blanch will be Nadal's lowest-ranked opponent on the ATP Tour. Before this, the Spaniard's previous lowest-ranked opponent was Olivier Rochus, who was ranked No. 762 at the Mallorca Open in 2002. But he has never played an opponent with a four-digit ranking.

This will be Nadal's sixth match of an injury-plagued season. He only recently returned to competition at the Barcelona Open, where he defeated Flavio Cobolli in his opening match but lost to Alex de Minaur in the second round. Ironically, Nadal will play the Australian again should he ease past Blanch as expected.


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