After being crippled with injuries back in 2016, Rafael Nadal made his comeback on the professional tour in style by reaching the Australian Open final earlier in the season. Since then, his game has been constantly improving and only a more inspired opponent prevented Nadal from catching his first ATP title in 2017. Once the action moved on clay, the momentum shifted into the Spaniard's backyard. Last Sunday he clinched his 10th Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title at the end of a vintage week of Tennis, and he is set to play the Barcelona Open next -- an ATP 500 event that Nadal won 9 times in the past -- and it seems likely that he could win it again.

Rafael Nadal leads the pack at the bottom half of the main draw in Barcelona

A top seed in Barcelona, he received a bye for the first round and will face Rogerio Dutra Silva for a place in the next round. The 33-year-old from Brazil is ranked 69th in the world and has never been close to being a high-profile tennis player. Despite being quite close to retirement he is yet to win at least an ATP title. Rafa Nadal and Dutra Silva met only once in the second round of the 2013 US Open and it was a clear straight set win for the Spaniard. At the Barcelona Open, Silva got past Renzo Olivo, a 25-year-old Argentine ranked 88th in the general ranking. The odds are pretty much favoring Rafael Nadal, especially after his success last week.

With Nishikori out of the picture due to injury, Nadal's trajectory seems promising.

Barcelona might be a winning card

Nadal has put in a huge amount of effort during the clay court season throughout his career. Some think that he should skip this particular event due to the minor impact it has on the general picture.

Madrid and Rome are next and then the French Open. So, Nadal's upcoming schedule is jam-packed with no blank spaces left on the sheet. Besides, as a professional tennis player, once you get older, picking your battles is key -- something that Roger Federer has managed to do in the later stages of his career.

Last year, by the time the French Open commenced, Nadal had 4 tournaments on clay, and a similar scenario is likely to unfold this season.

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