Six months later, Rafael Nadal he returned to play an official match. This headline, which was already news in itself, only needed to be filled with a victory or a defeat. And it was victory. The Spaniard debuted in the Rome Masters 1000 beating for the sixth time a Pablo Carreño (6-1, 6-2) who was not comfortable at any time, wishing that that brick dust would turn into a concrete track at some point. But this did not happen, nor will it happen in the next four weeks. The No. 2 in the world cleared the doubts about his performance, so we can already say what we thought. Rafael Nadal Parera will once again be the rival to beat on this clay court tour.

Nadal returned, on clay, in Rome and against a rival who had never surpassed her. Seen like this, they seemed factors enough to tip the balance in their favor. On the other side, six months without official tournaments in the legs, without playing an individual match, without breathing the aroma of competition. We found opinions of all kinds, on the one hand there were those who were already selling the bear’s skin defending the situation of the Balearic Islands, relying on a prolonged time of inactivity to explain a possible defeat. On the other hand, the unconditional ones pointed to the opposite side of the network, where a Carreño morally touched after what happened in New York did not arrive here in his best state of mind. They both had some point, but they both couldn’t get it right.

Finally it was the second who were finest. And it should not be easy to have Nadal in front of him and to be playing in the center of Rome, but the Asturian’s body expression was light years away from what we saw at the US Open. Normal, taking into account the fatigue, the change of continent, the change of surface and the psychological barrier that involves playing a rival that you could never win. If we add to this that Rafa went from less to more, gaining pace, growing in spirit and that he always dominated the scoreboard, the company multiplies its difficulty to levels far from anyone. With a 6-1 start, doubts were quickly cleared about the expectations we had for the match.

Obviously, Nadal is still on the way to show his full potential, especially at the offensive level, for the sensations in this first contact were positive, confirming that each piece is still in place and that his mentality has not deteriorated one iota . Always relying on his solidity, his rest and his speed to reach each ball, the Spaniard was unhinging a Carreno lacking inspiration, visibly tired, surely pissed off by the bad luck he had in the draw of the box.

The one from Manacor had a comfortable return, little demanded, he even finished the duel on the track and gaining a little more confidence for his next challenge: Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic. Nadal returned and with him, the records: 6th consecutive victory of the year (Acapulco won before the break), 11th consecutive victory in Rome (he has not lost since 2017), 13th consecutive victory on clay (he had not played on clay since the Roland final) Garros) and H2H 6-0 against his teammate Carreño. In short, there are things that not even a pandemic can change.