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Rafael Nadal ‘didn’t want to cry’ in Madrid Open 2024 defeat… as tennis great says he is ‘super-happy’ with fitness

Rafael Nadal said he was “super-happy” with his fitness but could not have “important dreams” after his last ever Madrid Open appearance ended in a 7-5 6-4 defeat to Czech world number 31 Jiri Lehecka.

Former world number one Nadal – the most successful player in the history of the Madrid Open, with five titles – is expected to retire in 2024, having been plagued by injuries.

The Spaniard has had his best run of matches since a brief return from a long-term lay-off in January, winning three times at his home tournament and taking on Lehecka 24 hours after a three-set win over Pedro Cachin which tested his conditioning across more than three hours.

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“It’s always emotional, playing here at home,” the 37-year-old told Tennis TV. “Having all the crowd giving me their last support has been unforgettable – a moment that will stay with me forever.

“This week has been very positive, with a lot of positive energy for what’s coming. I will never have the chance to thank everybody here enough.”

Nadal’s wife and parents were in the crowd who watched the 22-time grand slam champion receive a video tribute and commemorative trophy.

“I tried not to look at them because I didn’t want to cry,” said Nadal. “It’s not my last match and I’m not retiring yet, I’m just saying goodbye to a very special place for me.

“Things need to keep going and I don’t know when my final match will be. I don’t want to get too emotional because I want to keep going for a while.

“Yesterday’s match had been too long for me and my opponent played unbelievably. His serve was huge, which makes returns even more impossible in Madrid.

“I had my chances but I’m super-happy with the way my body held up after yesterday. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Rafal Nadal: French Open 2024 ‘exciting’

The focus will now intensify on whether Nadal will play at the French Open, in which he holds a record 14 titles. The 2024 edition starts on May 20.

“Last week I was able to play two matches but this week it was four at a decent level of tennis,” said Nadal, whose form has moved him 207 places up the rankings, to 305th.

“I can’t have any important dreams because I am not in a condition to ask for it. I am excited about the next couple of weeks on the tour.”

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