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Nadal falls to Lehecka in final Madrid Open match

By primenewsghana
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Rafael Nadal says it has been a "very emotional" week after he made his last-ever appearance at the Madrid Open.

The former world number one, a five time champion in the Spanish capital, waved an emotional farewell to the tournament after losing in straight sets to Jiri Lehecka.

The 37-year-old has indicated he plans to retire after the 2024 season.

"I'm happy," Nadal said after the 7-5 6-4 defeat.

"It was a very special week for me, very positive and very emotional. I had the opportunity to play one more time here on this court.

"All I can say is thank you to everyone that has helped me in my career. It hasn't finished yet."

Despite losing, Nadal's previous success at the tournament was celebrated with a video tribute and he was awarded a commemorative trophy.

"This was a joke, because I'll be back next year," said Nadal, with his family watching on from the stands.

He added: "It has been a gift what you've given me here.

"The emotion that I get from this experience in Madrid, from the Spanish public... I was lucky as a kid to do the job that I love. I feel super fortunate to have lived the life that I've lived. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Nadal held firm in the opening stages, but Lehecka delivered the first blow at 5-5 and backed the break up with a hold to love to claim the opening set.

The Czech 30th seed continued to outpower the 22-time Grand Slam champion, who dropped serve early in the second set.

A raucous crowd in Manolo Santana Stadium roared on their home hope, but the sole break of serve proved enough for Lehecka to wrap up the after victory with his first match point after two hours three minutes.

He will face Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev, who defeated Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

Meanwhile, Nadal, who made his return from a three-month injury absence at the Barcelona Open earlier this month, will take confidence from his three victories in Madrid that he can compete at the French Open for a final time.

A 14-time champion at Roland Garros, he missed the tournament for the first time in 19 years through injury in 2023.

The French Open, the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, starts on 26 May.