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It didn't look like he had been out of competition for 44 days. Rafael Nadal reappeared this Wednesday at the Mutua Madrid Open, dazzling the crowd that packed the Manolo Santana Stadium with his victory over Miomir Kecmanovic. The tennis player with the most crowns at the Masters 1000 held in the Spanish capital (2005, 2010, 2013-14 & 2017) dispatched the Serbian in two sets (6-1, 7-6[4]) after one hour and 55 minutes. A rib fracture suffered in Indian Wells meant that the final against Taylor Fritz was his last match before returning to the Madrid clay, starting the European tour on that surface later than usual. The unknowns arising from the inactivity were cleared up at a stroke with the Spaniard's pass to the round of 16 in the 20th anniversary edition of #MMOPEN. Dream start for Nadal in the match thanks to the income of two breaks that he converted in the fourth and sixth games. The third seed in the draw had few problems to win the first set in just 36 minutes, exhibiting solidity from the back of the court and aggressiveness with seven winning goals. The second act started marked by the rain that forced the roof to be closed when Kecmanovic had scored the first game on serve. The half-hour break served for the Belgrade-born tennis player to re-enter the match to battle the champion of 21 Grand Slam titles. The 22-year-old tennis player managed two counter-breaks in the sixth and twelfth games to force the second set's sudden death.

Nadal had a hectic 2022 season

ATP strategy coach Craig O'Shannessy recently explained why Rafael Nadal's results at Wimbledon were not up to the mark. "You got Rosol that beat [Rafael Nadal]. You got Darcis that beat him. You got Dustin that beat him. I think overall, when Rafa will sit down and look at those matches, [he'll see that] players came at him," O'Shannessy said. "Players attacked him, they went after him and he didn't go after them enough. I think he was too passive. I think he didn't come to the net enough." O'Shannessy noted how Dustin Brown neutralized the 21-time Grand Slam champion's sliced serve by positioning himself in a way that put him on the front foot from the get-go. "[Rafael Nadal] loves the slice serve down the T. So Dustin, instead of putting his left foot on the singles line, puts his right foot. So the slice now is coming forward at him. I studied Rafa so much, he hits everything so meticulously," O'Shannessy said. "I know what he is going to do. He does the same things, so I showed it to Dustin. He absorbed it, and he went out there ultra confident."

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