Rafael Nadal vs Miomir Kecmanovic: Madrid Masters 1000 Preview

Rafael Nadal 2022 Indian Wells
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After being sidelined for six weeks due to a rib injury, King of Clay Rafael Nadal is poised to make a return to the tour at the Madrid Masters on Wednesday. In his comeback match, 21-time Major Champion will lock horns against Miomir Kecmanovic in a tricky tournament opener in the Spanish capital.

In his Round-of-64 clash, Kecmanovic edged past Alexander Bublik 6-4 7-5 in an hour and 16 minutes. The 22-year-old Serb was dominant on his serve, winning a whopping 82% and 89% points on his first and second serve respectively. He did not face a single breakpoint in his tournament opener against Bublik. The young Serb should draw plenty of confidence from his win ahead of his clash against Nadal.

Rafael Nadal vs Miomir Kecmanovic

Head-to-head:
In their only clash so far on the ATP tour, Nadal got better of his young opponent in straight-sets, 6-2 7-5, at the Mexican Open in 2020. Kecmanovic is a much-improved player now. The Serb is in fine form and should pose a greater challenge to Nadal this time around.

Match Preview

Nadal is a five-time champion at the Madrid Masters. However, of all the tournaments on clay, the Spaniard has endured a difficult time in the Spanish capital. He has been unable to replicate the massive success that he has achieved in other clay-court events in Madrid. Nonetheless, the Spaniard should be eager to perform well in front of his home crowd as he hopes to gradually build momentum in the lead-up to the French Open.

Before suffering an injury setback in the closing stages of the Indian Wells Masters, Nadal enjoyed a spectacular run on the tour. He won his 21st Major at the Australian Open and holds a remarkable 20-1 W-L record so far in 2022. As he gears up to face the young Serb, the Spaniard should be hoping to hit the ground running and tick all the boxes in his comeback match. Nadal faces a challenging path to the title in Madrid. Should the seeds hold, he could face Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinal and Novak Djokovic in the semifinal.

While Nadal should start as a strong favorite against Kecmanovic, the fast-rising Serb has grown this season. He achieved deeper runs in multiple tournaments so far this season. While the 22-year-old eventually crumbled in three tight sets against Carlos Alcaraz at the Miami Masters, he certainly showcased a glimpse of what he is capable of. As he gears up to face an ultimate challenge on the clay of facing Rafael Nadal, he can draw confidence from his recent clash against Djokovic in Belgrade. The 22-year-old succeeded in winning a set against the World No.1. He outplayed Djokovic for a set and a half before the World No.1 came roaring back to win the thrilling contest in three sets.

Against a great returner like Nadal, Kecmanovic must find a way to consistently hold on to his service games to give himself a chance. In addition, the young Serb should aim to force Nadal to hit more from his backhand wing than his forehand wing to prevent the Spaniard from dictating the baseline exchanges.

In an intriguing battle across generations, can Kecmanovic stun the Spaniard to record the biggest win of his short career? Or will Nadal have all the answers to make a winning return to the tour?

It remains to be seen how Nadal fares in his comeback match in Madrid on Wednesday.

Main Photo from Getty.