Rafael Nadal crashes out of Madrid Open: Tennis ace thanks crowd after playing the tournament for the last time – almost 20 years after first lifting the trophy

AN emotional Rafael Nadal bid farewell to the Madrid Open crowd for the final time after the legendary Spaniard was defeated in straight sets by the 22-year old Czech star Jiri Lehecka.

In his final appearance at the Madrid Open, a tournament he won in 2005, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017, Nadal was given a raucous standing ovation as he thanked the crowd before leaving the clay court at Caja Magica in Spain’s capital for the last time.  

The 37-year old cruised through the first two rounds, comprehensively defeating Darwin Blanch and Alex de Minaur in straight sets, before a gruelling third-round triumph over Pedro Cachin – 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3) – on Monday.

The short turnaround between the third and fourth rounds evidently took its toll on the ageing Nadal as he was defeated 7-5, 6-4 in two hours by World No.31 Lehecka who became the lowest ranked-man to beat the 22-time Grand Slam title winner on his preferred clay court surface.

Nadal has missed the four most recent Grand Slam events through injury, but is hoping to return to competitive form before one final shot at the French Open later this month, a tournament he has won a record-breaking 14 times. 

His next event is likely to be the Italian Open in Rome, beginning on May 6 and played on clay. 

Following his defeat, Mallorca-born Nadal told the crowd: “At the moment I can only thank everyone who has helped me in my career, not because it has ended, but because it is true that this is the final time I will be in Madrid”.

He added: “For me it has been a gift that you have all given me over the years, perhaps more important than any Grand Slam. The emotions of playing on this court, with a Spanish crowd, is something that will stay with me forever”.

Nadal leaves Madrid with the astonishing record of having won the tournament as a teenager, in his 20s, and in his 30s.

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