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Rafael Nadal's Madrid swansong ended by Jiri Lehecka

Rafael Nadal's Madrid swansong ended by Jiri Lehecka
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Rafael Nadal's final Madrid Open campaign comes to an end with a fourth-round defeat to the Czech Republic's Jiri Lehecka.

Rafael Nadal's final Madrid Open campaign came to an emotional end with a fourth-round defeat to the Czech Republic's Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday night.

The 37-year-old - whose five titles at the event are an all-time men's record - had overcome Darwin Blanch, Alex de Minaur and Pedro Cachin en route to the last 16 of the Masters tournament, to the euphoria of the home crowd.

However, the Lehecka examination proved too difficult for Nadal to overcome, as the world number 512 fell to a 5-7 4-6 defeat in just over two hours to bow out of the Madrid Open for the final time.

Nadal missed one chance to break Lehecka in the seventh game and would be made to pay for it, losing serve to love in the 11th before his Czech counterpart sealed a tight first set with a love hold.

Lehecka came out firing in the second with an immediate break, and a marathon third game saw Nadal only just get on the scoreboard, denying the 22-year-old another three chances for a double break.

The home favourite could not make any more inroads on the Lehecka serve, though, and on his opponent's first match point, Nadal sent a backhand just wide of the tramlines to confirm the end of his Madrid journey.

Nadal confirms Madrid farewell in on-court interview

As Lehecka rejoiced in setting up a last-eight encounter with Daniil Medvedev, Nadal - who missed out on a 100th ATP 1000 quarter-final - confirmed to the adoring crowd that he had competed in Madrid for the final time and claimed that playing for his home supporters trumped any of his 22 Grand Slam victories.

"All I can do is thank everyone who has helped me in my career. Even though it's not over, this is the last time I'll be in Madrid," Nadal said, as quoted by the official ATP Tour website.

"You have given me a gift for the last 21 years that's more significant than any Grand Slam I have won. The emotions of playing in Madrid, in front of the Spanish fans, is something that will stay with me forever.

"I had the chance to play again on court. A few weeks ago, two days before Barcelona, I didn't know if I would compete in an official match again and I've now played two weeks. It's been unforgettable."

Next up for Nadal is next week's Italian Open in Rome - a competition he has won a record 10 times - before a potential swansong at his beloved French Open and the Paris 2024 Olympics.

While the 37-year-old's Masters run came to an end on Tuesday, his all-time record of 14 consecutive Madrid wins was equalled by Carlos Alcaraz, who overcame Jan-Lennard Struff in three sets to remain on course for a third-straight title.

Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev, Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Francisco Cerundolo - the latter two of whom conquered Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev respectively - also made it through to the last eight, but in the women's quarter-finals, Ons Jabeur suffered a shock exit to Madison Keys.

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