Alex de Minaur cut short the injury comeback of Rafael Nadal on Wednesday with a 7-5, 6-1 defeat which likely marked the veteran Spaniard’s final match at the ATP Barcelona Open.

The 37-year-old Nadal, winner of a record dozen titles at his home event, was playing his first event since the start of the year after dealing for months with an abdominal muscle injury.

His loss to the Spain-based Australian was only his fifth in two decades of playing the event as contrasted with 67 victories on the Catalan clay.

Nadal lost in just under two hours, walking off to a standing ovation from a home public unlikely to see him again after hinting that this would be his last season.

The 11th-ranked de Minaur is the first of 13 Aussies to ever beat Nadal on clay, a factoid the 25-year-old quickly downplayed.

“I was very very fortunate that I didn’t have to play him a couple of years ago,” he said. “This was an amazing experience – once in a lifetime.

The player who struck  21 winners and benefitted from 42 unforced errors from Nadal added:

“I was not keen on playing Rafa when I first saw the draw. But I turned my attitude around.

“This was a huge opportunity, I’m happy to get the win and move on.

de Minaur broke twice in the opening set and prevented Nadal from taking a 5-3 lead in the second set before turning out the lights on his first match point.

“The only thing I might have had on Rafa was physicality at this stage,” the 2022 semi-finalist here said. 

“I tried to make the rallies long and difficult, I wanted to move him around. But it’s never easy with Rafa.”