He’s baaaaaack. (Luis Acosta/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal and the rest of the Olympic tennis field encountered an unexpected layoff Wednesday after all action was canceled because of torrential rains and high winds in Rio. A crammed schedule on Thursday didn’t seem to affect the Spanish star, however, as he advanced to the gold medal round in men’s doubles just hours after cruising to an easy win in his men’s singles match to advance to the quarterfinals.

Nadal was also supposed to compete in the mixed-doubles competition Thursday evening but pulled out of the event. It perhaps shows a measured approach to potential fatigue as he makes deep tournament runs in singles and doubles, a prospect that seemed unlikely just a month ago when there were concerns about whether the Spaniard would even compete because of lingering injury concerns.

The 30-year-old Nadal has been hampered with a wrist injury for much of the season, failing to advance past the third round in Grand Slam competition. Before the Olympics, he stunned the tennis world by withdrawing from the round of 32 at the French Open.

Rafael Nadal (top) and Marc Lopez are into the doubles gold medal match. (Ryan Remiorz/Associated Press)

Nadal and partner Marc Lopez took down Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4), earlier Thursday to ensure a spot on the podium Friday. The pair will face Romania’s Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau, who took down Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock, 6-3, 7-5, in the other semifinal.

The Spanish victory, which was capped with Nadal jumping on top of his partner and the two emphatically hugging one another after collapsing on the court, came after Nadal beat France’s Gilles Simon, 7-6(5), 6-3, in the second round of men’s single competition earlier Thursday morning. He kicked tennis balls into the crowd and posed for pictures with fans after that win, which sets up a quarterfinal matchup against Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci.


Before Nadal could even begin preparing to take on the fan favorite Bellucci on home turf, in an environment that promises to be electric, he pulled out of his mixed-doubles match Thursday evening. He was slated to play alongside Muguruza against the Czech Republic’s Radek Sepanek and Lucie Hradecká. The workload has still been heavy for Nadal, who is four days removed from winning his opening match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in singles play. It was the first match that the 14-time Grand Slam winner had played since May.

“I won; that’s what’s important. I’m in the quarterfinals, which is very good news. A few days ago I wouldn’t imagine being in this position,” Nadal said after the win over Simon on Thursday. “But we have the desire and the energy high to give my best at every moment, and that’s what I am doing.”