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Nadal aims to find rhythm in Madrid as French Open looms

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Rafael Nadal

FILE – Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts during his ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament singles final match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona on April 25, 2021. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Rafael Nadal said on Sunday he is ready to win his sixth Madrid Open title as the 20-time Grand Slam champion steps up his preparation for the French Open.

Nadal will be gunning for a record-extending 14th triumph at Roland Garros, where victory this year would also edge him ahead of Roger Federer’s 20 major titles and to the top of the all-time men’s list.

The 34-year-old arrives in Madrid on the back of winning the Barcelona Open last week when he had to come through a marathon final against Stefanos Tsitsipas in what was only the Spaniard’s third event of the year.

But there is room for improvement for Nadal, who struggled for his usual fluency in Barcelona and will be hoping for better this week in the Spanish capital.

“Barcelona was an important week for me,” Nadal said in a press conference on Sunday. “Without playing my best since the beginning, I was able to be passionate, to stay positive and to accept the challenge to try to win matches without playing my best.

“I was able to achieve another important title in my career. That’s important for my confidence.

“I really believe that winning these kinds of tournaments when you are not playing that well can then make a big difference for the next ones. I feel that that was a positive week. Now is another week and I hope to be ready.”

Nadal is the top seed in Madrid and will play either compatriot Carlos Alcaraz or the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the first round while he is due to meet Dominic Thiem, a finalist at the French Open in 2018 and 2019, in the last four.

The tournament is also open to spectators at 40 percent capacity, which could give Nadal an extra boost on home turf.

“Madrid is the most difficult event on clay for me, everybody knows that,” said Nadal. “But at the same time, it is one of the most emotional events for me, playing at home.

“We are going to have a chance to play with a crowd again so that means a lot to me. I am super happy to be back here.”

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