Rafael Nadal recently revealed that the Madrid Open is the toughest claycourt tournament for him. Speaking at a press conference ahead of the start of his campaign in the Spanish capital, Nadal asserted that "everyone knows" of his struggles at the event.
"Madrid is the most difficult tournament for me (on clay)," Nadal said. "Everyone knows that."
The Spaniard has had his share of troubles at the Madrid Open in the past. The high altitude and the relatively quicker conditions in the city aren't exactly well-suited to his high-topspin game.
But despite that Rafael Nadal is a five-time champion in Madrid, with a career win percentage of 85% at the event. Nadal last won the Madrid Open in 2017, but bowed out early from the last two editions - at the quarterfinal stage against Dominic Thiem in 2018, and the semifinals against Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion spoke very highly of the event during his presser, and claimed that he feels "emotional" every time he plays at his home tournament.
"At the same time, it is one of the most emotional tournaments for me because I play at home," Nadal said. "We will have the opportunity to play in front of the audience again. That means a lot to me."
The 34-year-old comes into this year's edition as the top seed and the clear favorite. But his path to the final includes complicated potential matchups against Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev, and one of Dominic Thiem or Andrey Rublev.
"Barcelona was a very important week for me" - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal got his clay season off to an indifferent start in Monte Carlo, where he was defeated by Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals. But the Spaniard worked himself into form and fitness at Barcelona, where he won the title for a record-extending 12th time.
Nadal dropped the first set in his second-round match there though (against Ilya Ivashka), and had to fight hard to overcome Kei Nishikori in the third round. He also battled Stefanos Tsitsipas in the longest three-set match of the year before triumphing 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-5.
During his Madrid press conference, Rafael Nadal reflected on what was an "important" week for him in Catalonia.
"My mentality remains the same in every tournament: to play at the highest level from the first game," Nadal said. "I just have to say that Barcelona was a very important one week for me. Of course, without doing my best from the start, I could keep a positive attitude and accept the challenge and try to win games without doing my best in my career."