For the first time in his career, Rafael Nadal blew a 2-set lead in a Grand Slam. That happened last night when the 2-time US Open champion couldn’t hold a 2-set and 3-1 lead in the third only to lose to new rival Fabio Fognini 36, 46, 64, 63, 64 in a 3-hour, 46-minute thrill ride Friday at the US Open.
“He play great,” he said about Fognini who has now beaten him three times this year. “It was not a match that I lost, even if I had opportunities. It’s a match that he wins. So accept. Not happy that he played better than me, but that’s what happened. He played better than me, no? I didn’t play bad at all. I played a normal match, but not enough. So not happy with that. But accept that he was better than me today.
“But the good thing is my mind allows me to fight until the end as I did during all my career. Sometimes this year I was not able to do that,” he added. “I tried to fight until the last ball. I believe I did, but was not enough today.”
Nadal finished with just 38 winners, to Fognini’s 70. And the Italian took advantage of Rafa’s second serve, finishing at just 38% of those service points won.
“He’s a player with a great talent, with huge shots, and he played amazing shots. But what I am doing worse is playing worse than what I used to do the last couple of years. That’s it.
“If you hit the ball a bit shorter, the opponent has more space. If you hit the ball with a little bit of less confidence, then there is not as much topspin like used to be. If you hit shorter, you will run slower. Is not you run slower, but the opponent take the ball earlier so it looks like you are slower.
“Is easy to understand, easy to explain, difficult to change, but I going to do it.”
For the first time since 2004, Nadal ends a season without a Grand Slam title much less a even semifinal. Just two quarterfinals, a third round and a second.
“The only thing that means is I played worse than the last 10 years,” Nadal said. “That’s the real thing. By the way, for me was amazing win 10 years in a row Grand Slam. I think nobody did. You can imagine how difficult is make that happen.
“Accept that was not my year and keep fighting till the end of the season to finish in a positive way for me. Finish the season with the feeling that I improved something from the beginning of the season. That’s something that I think I am doing.”
After a tough loss, Nadal now heads into the fall season with Davis Cup and then Beijing and Shanghai as he tries to now qualify for the year-end ATP Finals in London.
“I think I have a good base now,” he went on. “As I said, good thing is I am not playing terrible matches like I did at the beginning of the season. When I am losing, I am losing because the opponents beat me, not because I lose the match, as I did a lot of times at the beginning of the season. That’s an improvement for me, so I have a base now. That is a start. I know what I have to do and I going to work.”
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