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Nadal says goodbye to Madrid Masters with loss to Lehecka

What is presumably Rafael Nadal’s farewell tour continued with his final appearance at the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday night. Playing at this Masters 1000 tournament for the last time, Nadal saw his run come to an end in the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Jiri Lehecka.

The 37-year-old, who plans to retire at some point in 2024, had advanced earlier in the fortnight with defeats of Darwin Blanch, Alex de Minaur, and Pedro Cachin. However, Spaniard required three hours and four minutes to beat Cachin and had no days off prior to his next match.

That was always going to leave Nadal in a tough spot against the in-form Lehecka, and sure enough it proved to be too difficult. The Czech fired seven aces, won 89 percent of his first-serve points, and did not get broken once en route to a victory after two hours and one minute.

There was an on-court ceremony for Nadal following the match.

“It is very special for me,” the five-time Madrid champion assured. “I have had the opportunity to play again on this court that has given me so much. When I left for Barcelona I did not know if I would be able to compete again. It has been an unforgettable week. Honestly the only thing I can do is give thanks.

“The first time I arrived competitively in Madrid, in 2005, it was one of the most exciting victories I have had. To this day it has only been unconditional support and affection from everyone. I can only say thank you.”

Next up on Nadal’s schedule, at least for now, is the Rome Masters. He is also targeting two appearances at Roland Garros–for both the French Open and the Paris Olympics.

As for Lehecka, he advances to a quarterfinal contest with Daniil Medvedev on Thursday. Regardless of that outcome, the 22-year-old won’t soon forget this fortnight in Madrid.

“It’s amazing to share a court with such a legendary player,” Lechecka said. “It’s a dream come true; I always wished for this to happen. I’m very grateful to achieve such a big moment and all the best to Rafa. It’s kind of bittersweet to have such a nice win in front of all these people who were cheering for him. The energy was amazing.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.