Rafael Nadal at the Mexican Open in Acapulco, Guerrero

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal, the main face of the Mexican tournament, will face American Denis Kudla in the first round.

Rafael Nadal at the Mexican Open in Acapulco, Guerrero
Rafael Nadal. Photo: Agencies

Rafa Nadal returns to the ring. The Spaniard will debut the label as the most Grand Slam-winning tennis player with 21 in the heat of Acapulco. He has recovered from the physical beating he took at the Australian Open and will compete in a tournament that brings together four other players on the list of the best: Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, and Daniil Medvedev, the Mallorcan's last rival, whom he defeated in a grueling five hour and 24-minute duel. "My life has changed absolutely nothing. From 20 to 21 [titles] is not very big. Life goes on the same, the only thing that has changed is that I'm playing tennis again, which I hadn't played for a long time," he said on Sunday from the Mexican port.

Nadal was to make his debut against American Reilly Opelka (number 20 in the ATP ranking). "I have a very complicated draw, a difficult first round with a player who comes from winning a tournament [tournament champion in Dallas], one of the most difficult because of his style of play. It's a very difficult opener," summed up the Spaniard. But Opelka withdrew from the tournament and his replacement will be Denis Kudla. Before his triumph in Melbourne, Rafa Nadal was weakened by the chronic injury in his left foot and had just recovered from his covid-19 infection. "What keeps me going is that I could have competed for five hours, the foot held up and that gives me the energy," he said. Meanwhile, Carlos Alcaraz (29), the shining Spanish star, was going to play against the British Cameron Norrie (13) but announced his withdrawal from the tournament due to the physical exhaustion he had in Rio, where he was crowned.

The Mexican Open of Acapulco has been one of the bastions of tennis in Latin America since it was founded in 1993. The top winners have been Spaniards. David Ferrer won it four times (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015), Nicolás Almagro in 2008 and 2009. Nadal has taken the ovation on three occasions (2005, 2013, and 2020). "In Latin America, I have felt very loved. Mexico is no exception. I have felt the affection of the people, which for me is a nice feeling, I can only thank the Mexican people for the welcome they give me. I enjoyed being in Acapulco. I'm happy," said the spoiled tennis player during the competition. A few months ago her compatriots, Paula Badosa and Garbiñe Muguruza played at home during the Masters Cup in Guadalajara.

"After Australia, I had to assess how my body was going to respond after a physical slump. Pain-wise, the body was responding well. I am happy to play tennis. The start of the year has been infinitely better than I could have thought," said the Spaniard. Someone whose career has been hampered by injuries has been the Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who a few weeks ago hinted that he would retire from tennis. I feel sorry for everything that Juan Martin has had to go through in his career, he is one of the best tennis players on the circuit, too many physical problems have not allowed him to develop the career he deserved," said the Mallorcan.

Nadal, who by numbers, is the winningest male tennis player dodged the controversy over what factors should be taken into account to define the greatest of all time. "It can be defined by taste," he said. One of his upcoming rivals, Serbian Novak Djokovic, has been at the center of global discussion for refusing to be vaccinated against covid and, he told the BBC, will forgo tournaments that require him to be immunized. "I repeat: everyone makes their own decisions and must live with them," he added.

Source: El Pais