Nadal continues his preparations in Madrid and takes another step towards Paris. GETTY IMAGES

Rafael Nadal avenged his loss to Alex de Minaur in Barcelona with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 victory over the Australian on Saturday.

The Spaniard kept his hopes alive in Madrid in what could be his last appearance at his home tournament. For Nadal, it's a personal triumph. He's using the tournament to get his body and mind back on track.

"I need time," said the Spanish champion about his recovery and his fight against physical problems. The victory for Nadal means he is now through to what could be his last tournament in his home country, where he will meet Pedro Cachin in the third round.

The 37-year-old wants to get back on track after being sidelined for almost a year after the 2023 Australian Open. This season, possibly his last at the elite level, is proving to be a challenge for him to perform at his best, though his goal is a return to the peak of his competitive career.

Nadal (R) and de Minaur shake hands after their match in Madrid. GETTY IMAGES
Nadal (R) and de Minaur shake hands after their match in Madrid. GETTY IMAGES

On Nadal's farewell tour, he has faced de Minaur twice in as many weeks, but this time the result was reversed as the 22-time Grand Slam champion came through their second-round clash. He continues to accumulate playing time in preparation for new challenges. In Madrid, the Spaniard will not face one of his usual rivals, Novak Djokovic, who pulled out ahead of the tournament.

Nadal's match was watched by a distinguished crowd including King Felipe VI of Spain. Also present were French football legend Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior. They saw the Spanish veteran take another step forward in his recovery and get the better of the world number 11.

The 37-year-old was pleased with the victory, but hinted that he still has a long way to go to reach the physical condition he wants for a return to Roland Garros, his favourite tournament. He said: "Playing for more than two hours means a lot to me and the atmosphere here is incredible. It's just one step at a time and we'll see how I recover."

Madrid's Caja Magica with closed roof. GETTY IMAGES
Madrid's Caja Magica with closed roof. GETTY IMAGES

The Spanish champion is known for his caution and refuses to get ahead of himself. He wants to return to Roland Garros with the energy he had before, but will not make a decision about competing in the major until after Rome which starts next week. He also explained the key factor that would determine his participation. "It's not about winning or losing. It's about going out and feeling like I can fight and be competitive," said the 14-time French Open champion.

"If I can't get on the court and dream, there's no point for me in going. I would rather stay with all the wonderful memories that I have."

Spain's King Felipe VI was on hand for Nadal's match in Madrid. GETTY IMAGES
Spain's King Felipe VI was on hand for Nadal's match in Madrid. GETTY IMAGES

The shock of the day came courtesy of world number 118 Thiago Monteiro who knocked out Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets. The Brazilian qualifier took just over an hour and a half to win 6-4, 6-4 with Tsitsipas suffering just his second defeat in 12 clay-court matches this season.

The 25-year-old Greek, ranked seventh in the world, was one of the favourites having won his third Monte Carlo title after reaching the final in Barcelona.

"This is without a doubt one of the most important wins of my career," said left-hander Monteiro after reaching the third round of a Masters 1000 event for the first time.

Tsitsipas said, as quoted by AFP, "I felt out of rhythm on my returns throughout the match. I felt very unbalanced. My body was all over the place," said Tsitsipas, as quoted by AFP.

Top seed Jannik Sinner made safe progress to round three after defeating his Italian Davis Cup team-mate Lorenzo Sonego 6-0, 6-3 in just 69 minutes. The world number two will now play Pavel Kotov in the third round.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev came from a set down to beat another Italian,Matteo Arnaldi, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. He will meet the American Sebastian Korda in the third round.

On the women's side, 2023 runner-up Iga Swiatek easily defeated Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-1. She will meet local favourite Sara Sorribes Tormo in the fourth round. One of the attractions of the day was the closing of the roof of the Manolo Santana stadium due to the rain.

"The weather is certainly different from last year, but I still know how to play in these conditions. I feel very comfortable," said Swiatek as she bids for a third WTA 1000 crown of the season. Also through are 2022 champion Ons Jabeur, who beat Canada's Leylah Fernandez 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, and US Open champion Coco Gauff, who beat Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-1.