Rafael Nadal’s Madrid Open request confirmed by tournament director Feliciano Lopez

Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says host

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Rafael Nadal has reportedly made a request to Madrid Open director Feliciano Lopez to play earlier on Wednesday when he is due to compete in the round of 32 – so that he can attend Real Madrid vs Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu on the same night.

The star is set to appear in his first tournament since the Indian Wells final in mid-March, where he lost in straight sets to Taylor Fritz in a shock loss. Competing on home soil, the Mallorca-born legend will likely use the knockout tournament as practice for the French Open that is due to start in three weeks’ time.

But alongside tournament director Lopez, Nadal is pining to go to the Champions League semi-final clash on Wednesday if possible. And Lopez confirmed his request after he himself admitted he would love to go to the crunch tie.

“It has been a long time since I’ve been to the Bernabeu and it is a game I’d like to go to. Let’s see if I can escape to see the game against Manchester City,” Lopez said. “Rafael Nadal wants to play during the day in Madrid so that the ball bounces higher, but with the semi-final he joked about not playing at night.”

Lopez then spoke out about whether his beloved Real should be awarded with a guard of honour against local rivals Atletico Madrid on Sunday evening after clinching the title at home to Espanyol on Saturday. “I think the guard of honour confuses things,” he replied. “The champions of the league should be getting a guard of honour whatever team they are against and wherever they play.

“It should be a gesture that is always done. It shouldn’t be seen as something negative, but simply as a nice gesture.” Back on the court, there are a plethora of stars who could win the accolade instead of Nadal.

Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Alexander Zverev and Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz are all taking part in the competition. With fans being allowed back in for the first time since the Covid pandemic, Lopez believes there is a greater anticipation than ever.

He later said that the tournament this year was “spectacular” after recent editions were underwhelming due to the pandemic. “This is my fourth year, although there was a stoppage with the pandemic,” he added.

“This year is spectacular. The level of audience influx is spectacular. Full to the flag: the central full, the Arantxa full… We are very happy. I think people wanted to enjoy this event without any restrictions.”

Nadal has won the competition five times in the past, with his last triumph coming in 2017 with a 7-6, 6-4 win over Austrian star Dominic Thiem.

He will aim to make that six this year, and is set to face either Miomir Kecmanovic or Alexander Bublik in the second round after receiving a bye for the first round.

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