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Rafael Nadal: 12-time Barcelona Open champion will return to action after long injury lay-off

Rafael Nadal will make his return to action in Barcelona with Britain's Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu playing in Munich and Stuttgart respectively; you can watch over 80 tournaments a year, including the US Open, exclusively live on Sky Sports Tennis

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after winning a point in his match against Jason Kubler of Australia during the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
Image: Rafael Nadal looks set to make his long-awaited return to action at the Barcelona Open

Rafael Nadal will make his long-awaited return to action at the Barcelona Open after the 12-time champion confirmed he is fit enough to face Flavio Cobolli.

Nadal, who has not played a match since the Brisbane International in January, is set to face 21-year-old Cobolli in the first round at 3pm BST on Tuesday - live on Sky Sports Tennis.

The Spaniard confirmed on Monday in a press conference that he is fit enough to play and he will continue practising on his favourite clay surface in the lead-up to the tournament.

Nadal’s Barcelona Open draw

R1: Cobolli

R2: De Minaur

R3: Popyrin/Fils

QF: Humbert/Davidovich Fokina

SF: Tsitsipas/Alcaraz

F: Ruud/Rublev/Khachanov

On returning to the court, Nadal said: "I came here a bit of a last-minute decision, because I didn't know if I was going to be able to play. Tomorrow I will be on the court."

The 37-year-old 12-time champion in Barcelona has been forced to delay his comeback after picking up a micro muscle tear in Brisbane.

He has already withdrawn from the Australian Open, Qatar Open, Indian Wells and Monte Carlo Masters, with the French Open starting on May 20, where he is a record 14-time winner.

If Nadal defeats world No 63 Cobolli, he will face fourth seed Alex de Minaur in the second round.

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The Australian is enjoying the best season of his career having broken into the world's top 10 for the first time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas believes the Spaniard would have no trouble finding form on his favourite surface and is the "ultimate challenger on clay".

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Novak Djokovic has admitted that he misses playing against long-time rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Rafa in the final of Barcelona, because that's something he has done over and over again for years and years," Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo title for a third time on Sunday, told reporters.

"What he does have is this competitiveness and this fierce tennis when he gets into the momentum that sometimes feels like on the outside perspective unstoppable. I think he's the ultimate challenge on clay.

"Whether he's playing now at, let's say, later stages of his career or the ones before, what he has now that he didn't before is experience, and he for sure knows ways to win points and to prevail more in economy mode than before."

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Annabel Croft revealed Jack Draper is a natural right hander but plays with his left, like Nadal, which means the backhand is played like a second forehand

In Munich, Britain's Jack Draper has been drawn to face Czech Vit Kopriva in the opening round, while Jan Choinski will hope to come through qualifying to join him in the main draw.

Live Tennis

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu has been awarded a wildcard into the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart where defending champion Iga Swiatek will be joined by Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina along with home favourite Angelique Kerber.

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola shares his inspirations from different sports including athletes such as Nadal, Roger Federer, and Tommy Fleetwood

How to watch play on Sky Sports Tennis

The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day
Image: The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day

Sky Sports has confirmed a new home for tennis in the UK and Ireland, with Sky Sports Tennis on Sky and NOW, making tennis content available all day, every day for fans.

Sky Sports will broadcast more live tennis than anywhere else, bringing over 4,000 matches from more than 80 tournaments a year on the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as full coverage of the US Open, all exclusively live.

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