Rafael Nadal’s toughest clay season yet continued today in a loss to rival Novak Djokovic 46, 63, 63 in the final at the ATP Rome Masters 1000.
Nadal concludes his clay lead-up with just one European title in Madrid where he drew a timely retirement from Kei Nishikori. Otherwise, the Spaniard suffered stunning losses to countrymen Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer before falling today for the fourth straight time to Djokovic.
On the eve of his French Open title defense, Nadal remains upbeat.
“I felt that Novak was pushing me and has a great talent to play inside the lines,” said Nadal. “I think this week is important for me. I have won 600 points. I was able to play in another final here. I was able to compete well against one of the best players of the moment. I arrive to Roland Garros now more encouraged that what I did a few weeks ago.
“I played three very tough matches this week and it was very hard mentally, as well as physically,” said Nadal. “I was a little bit tired.”
Nadal still had three titles on the season – equal to Djokovic’s – but the World No. 1 hasn’t beaten a Top 5 player this year and has only one victory over the group in the last seven months (David Ferrer at London).
Next week Nadal begins his quest for a ninth French Open in Paris where he’ll be the top seed for a third time. But is their cause for concern for the King of Clay?
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