lowers the curtain in Madrid

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Rafael closes the curtain in Madrid. Even though the last function was expected and announced, it doesn’t hurt any less. The staff has not yet digested it, but, after midnight, the Spaniard says goodbye to Madrid, and to playing in Spain, after an entire life sharing Sundays of triumphs as if he were one more from home. Except for miracles, the Balearic Islands are already accustomed to those, the man from Manacor has played his last game in the Caja Mágica, a last gift to the Spanish fans that is a pure anecdote that it is a defeat against Jiri Lehecka, impossible to overshadow everything that has been here : 59 victories, five titles (2005, coming back from two sets against Ivan Ljubicic; 2010, against Roger Federer; 2013, against Stan ; 2014, against Kei Nishikori, and 2017, against Dominic Thiem), three finals. And all that is not measured by numbers and is only collected in each person’s personal books.

“No, it was a joke, next year I’ll be back, man,” he smiled after giving up after another two hours of exhaustion, of courage, of banana shot, of giving hope of another magical night, of everything that Nadal It is on a court, which is not just tennis. As a tribute, his titles were remembered, displayed on giant canvases, with the emotion of the tennis player, his sister and his mother, between tears, with a video of all the moments he has left here, on these walls, forever . «Looking at the images, some seem from another life. We have lived so much. I can only thank those who have helped me in my career. It’s not over yet, but here in Madrid it will be the last. For me it has been a gift during these 21 years that is more important than any Grand Slam I have won. The emotions that I take with me from this court, from playing in front of the Spanish public, will stay within me forever,” he completed the speech.

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  • Jiri Lehecka

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At the farewell, all the spotlights are on him, the night is closed, and the ceiling, because on this last time in Madrid, Nadal confessed that he loved the feeling of this Manolo Santana in which the applause and warmth of the public resounded. The joy is mixed with the uncertainty of what tennis will be like in Spain after today, when the images of Nadal in Madrid have to be searched on YouTube and that feeling that runs through the staff of what wonder the game will be invented disappears from the body. Manacor that will remain forever in the retina, to say that a little piece of tennis history has been witnessed live.

Lehecka is a player with punch, a very good backhand, a very flat forehand, alternatives with the serve, who can also reach 233 kilometers per hour, and pushes the Balearic back, but Nadal does not respond, as he has never done before and does not He will do it now, with everything his legend weighs on all his rivals. On the contrary, he crushes with the crossed backhand, with which he manages to make Lehecka disappear from the court a little and a little and a little, to leave a clear way for the other side. Or he brings out the right, that right, the usual right.

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The pace of the rally is very high from the beginning, a beating for both because ball speed combines with strength. There is no doubt that it has been wonderful for the Spaniard to play in this shift, no matter how much he regretted missing the game, even though it sneaks onto the mobile screens in the rooms next to the court. It’s almost 38 years and the body needs its time. But he reactivated it full of energy, activated on all fronts, fast despite the Czech’s shells, very ready when he went up to the net, overwhelmed from any side.

At times the Czech’s speed turns off and there is a feeling of euphoria when Nadal achieves the first break point, at 4-3. Lehecka dilutes it, but it is a first warning of the threat that is already the Balearic Islands, hesitant in his arrival at the Caja Mágica, convincing in his debut against Blanch, convinced in his clash against De Miñaur, resistant against Pedro Cachín and dazzling against Lehecka in a first set of full performance.

Nadal activates the staff when he raises a 40-0 to get within two points of the rest of the set, at 5-4; Lehecka survives, who is the one who puts one more gear in the next turn and, evading everything around him, causes three errors in the Balearic Islands, which are three set balls. The Caja Mágica wakes up, providing moral support to the Balearic Islands, but the Czech is not Blanch, nor De Miñaur, nor Cachín and does not listen to a deafening echo against him. Eight consecutive points to complete the set and begin to tighten the hearts of the fans. Goodbye is beginning to take shape, although there is a glimmer of hope. Because no one wants to answer the question of what tennis will be without Nadal. Because tennis was born before him, of course, and will continue after him. But it will be another tennis. And the sensations of seeing it will no longer be there, so alive; It’s like a replay of a goal, like a photocopy of a photo. It’s all there, the same, but different.

And this is how this Nadal from the second set appears after passing through the locker room. Same, but different. Who came out at the beginning transformed into a gladiator, accompanied by the soundtrack of Ridley Scott’s film, and is now a little slower, a little less Nadal. He clenches his fists, he cheers up, there are several “let’s go” of his, and he tries to support the stands with that “yes we can” in which all the hopes are harbored that he will draw another magical day in the Box that Nadal always illuminates that appears. There are two “banana shots” that only he knows how to make, but mistakes also happen and Lehecka does not give in.

Nadal leaves his mark, the “banana shots”, his not giving in when the clock strikes twelve. The Magic Box refuses to let him go. He doesn’t want to either, but the Czech is not intimidated and this is Nadal’s last setback in the Caja Mágica. A last blow of everything that he has been, of everything that he is, of everything that he has left in the fans, of everything that he will always survive within each one. The tennis player says goodbye to Madrid, but not . That one will never go away. “It has been a positive week, very special, I have had the opportunity to play once again on this court that has given me so much on a sporting and emotional level,” confessed the Spaniard, all of Madrid at his feet. All tennis at his feet. “My career is not over yet,” he recalls. He has added six games in two weeks, after 18 blank months and injuries and surgeries in between. He lowers the curtain in Madrid, but how can you not believe in everything that can come. It’s Nadal.

As a tribute, his titles were remembered: 2005, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017, displayed on giant canvases, with the emotion of the tennis player, his sister and his mother, in tears, with a video of all the moments he has left here, on these walls, forever.

“It was a joke, I’ll be back next year”

“That was a joke, I’ll be back next year, man,” he joked as he picked up the microphone. Seeing the images that some seem from another life. We have lived so much. I can only thank those who have helped me in my career. It’s not over yet, but here in Madrid it will be the last. For me it has been a gift during these 21 years that is more important than any Grand Slam I have won. The emotions that I take away from this court, from playing in front of the Spanish public, will stay within me forever. I have been lucky to have been able to make what was a hobby my job and do it in an outstanding way. I feel super lucky in life for what I have experienced, I can’t ask for anything more. I hope it has been a positive example for the new generations, which is the most important thing. moments are exciting, and I hope that from what I see, I have generated that emotion in all of you. The only thing I can say is thank you. It was a difficult day when it arrived, I think life and my body have been sending me signals for a long time. I have been able to do it on a track, which for me was a dream and on one of the tracks that has excited me the most. Thank you very much for everything and see you always. «I want to thank Ion Tiriac, Feliciano López and the Community of Madrid for making this tournament possible. I don’t want to thank the family and the team because I will do it the day I retire,” he concluded.

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