Copy of 2024-04-17T160716Z_1651042557_UP1EK4H18S14X_RTRMADP_3_TENNIS-BARCELONA-1713370551837
Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts after losing his round of 32 match against Australia's Alex de Minaur. Image Credit: Reuters

Barcelona: Rafael Nadal suffered his first defeat on his return to tennis after injury as he fell 7-5, 6-1 against Alex de Minaur on Wednesday in the Barcelona Open second round.

Copy of 2024-04-17T160338Z_2138707928_UP1EK4H18LZ4S_RTRMADP_3_TENNIS-BARCELONA-1713370556899
Australia's Alex de Minaur in action during his match against Spain's Rafael Nadal on Wednesday. Image Credit: Reuters

The 22-time Grand Slam title winner, back on court this week after three months on the sidelines, battled well but eventually crumbled against the hard-working world number 11 from Australia.

Nadal, 37, who missed virtually all of the 2023 season, is hoping to compete at the French Open in May where he is the record 14-time champion.

The Spaniard, who has won the Barcelona clay-court title on 12 occasions, had eased past Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday in his first ATP Tour match since January, but said he was not favourite against De Minaur who has now won his last two clashes against the former world number one.

It proved a far tougher challenge and despite showing flashes of his supreme quality on the court named after him, Nadal came up short in what he said he believes is his final appearance at the tournament.

Brilliant drop shots

The Australian broke in the first game and tested Nadal with a series of brilliant drop shots which Nadal could not reach.

However Nadal hit back with a break of his own in the sixth game and consolidated with a fizzing backhand for a 4-3 lead.

De Minaur broke to love to take a 6-5 lead as Nadal went wide and sealed the first set when the Spaniard pushed a shot into the net, winning the final 10 points as Nadal started to struggle.

The 25-year-old Australian broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set when Nadal could not return a powerful passing shot, and secured another break for 4-1.

De Minaur wrapped up his emphatic second set performance with a third break when Nadal went long.

Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Sebastian Ofner later Wednesday in the second round.