Rafael Nadal Lost Again? This Time To Almagro In Barcelona! Is It Time To Panic?
by Sean Randall | April 25th, 2014, 1:50 pm

For the second straight Friday Rafael Nadal was stunned by a fellow Spaniard on his beloved clay. Last week Nadal got bounced by David Ferrer. Today it was Nicolas Almagro’s turn to temporarily dethrone the King of Clay, knocking out Rafa 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the Barcelona quarterfinals.

Nadal had dominated Almagro winning all 10 of their prior meetings, losing just one single set. And he had won 41 straight matches in Barcelona where, like Monte Carlo, he was looking for a ninth title.

Yet today, after blowing out to a 6-2 first set lead (his 44th straight set win at the event) Nadal wouldn’t win another. And that after he held a 3-1 lead in the third.

Now it’s two clay events, two losses in the quarterfinals to opponents he’s dominated.

Credit to Almagro and Ferrer, this still had to win, but what’s going on with Rafa? Two curious losses in consecutive weeks at two of his most successful events on his favorite surface? Something is up and something is wrong.

Balls are landing short. His movement just isn’t there and sometimes he looks lost on the clay. Today on the bigger points, Almagro appeared to be the aggressor.

Nadal talked about losing that confidence after Monte Carlo and this result won’t help.

Rafa began the year with a title in Doha and he reached the Australian Open final where I think things took a turn. That back injury may now be healed but perhaps he hasn’t mentally recovered from it. Is it still in the back of his mind? Or is he just feeling his age and years of work – he’s about to turn 28?

I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

But fortunately Nadal has another month to get right before Paris. So don’t panic just yet, and remember the French is still best of 5! In the meantime what a boon for the contenders like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. No longer is the clay ruled by one man and one man only. At least not right now it isn’t.

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60 Comments for Rafael Nadal Lost Again? This Time To Almagro In Barcelona! Is It Time To Panic?

Daniel Says:

If things keep going like this Djoko could be #1 before RG (they are only 50 pts difference removing Madrid and Rome from both players). That would be odd, Djoko being #1 holding no Slam while Nadal hold 2.

Something clearly is wrong with him. Maybe him going deep end of last year and beginning of this year took a toll on him. Usually he has spams where he plays great and he is playing non stop since February last year, with max 6-7 break from Nov-Dec. more than 1 year he ism playing non stop whereas in the past he used to have some breaks. He succeed in north America swing and played 4 tourneys after US Open last year.

Maybe the timing is awful and he is running out of fumes in the part of the season he used to shine. Will see..

kishore Says:

Nadal has done poorly when he is #1. I wish he falls to #2 before french. He is like the Horse in seabiscuit movie, does well when he is second. Anyhow, regarding his game, he was not able to play each and every point at the same intensity. He had too many highs and lows. We should also not discount that other players have improved and have started reading him better and taking his top spin early. Nadal needs to add some more variety to his game.

His fore hand down the line and inside out shots is still the best shot but his follow up to that shot is poor. 90% of the times the opponent responds with a looping slice and Nadal should probably move forward and take it on the full instead of waiting the ball to bounce.

Hope Nadal comes back before French. Playing Madrid might actually do more harm than good to his confidence.

Should he skip Madrid and come back in Rome and French ?

John Says:

For once humble rafa was right. This really is the humble season.

Salleh Ahmed Says:

and to win 17 GS seems a distant goal now for rafa

John Says:

Maybe, or maybe he will take a 6 month break only to come back and win everything.

Josh Says:

After the loss to Ferrer, I did think that it was just a bad day and Rafa would come storming back to win Barcelona, especially with the early exit of Ferrer here. But he’s somehow managed to lose to Almagro, who has had a history of choking against Rafa and other top players (see Paris Masters 2009). I am now officially quite worried about his chances at Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros as he just does not seem to have regained his confidence since the US Open last year

Joel Says:

John, a six month break would be the rest of the Grand Slam season and put us in late October. That said, it is probably what he needs to do if he wants to play at a decent level to the age of, oh I don’t know, 32. His style of play is too hard on his body.

Giles Says:

We have a John, a Joel and a Josh here. All that’s missing is a Jock.

RZ Says:

I know this is counter-intuitive, but as someone who believes in sports jinxes I feel like the more Rafa loses before RG, the more likely he will win there.

RZ Says:

It’s a nice win for Almagro, who has a history of close-but-not-quite encounters in big matches. Good to see him pull of a big victory.

RZ Says:

Also have to wonder how much of this is the “Stan effect”? The players saw Wawrinka win in Australia, and then saw Ferrer take Rafa out in Monte Carlo last week. Add to that Rafa’s public mention of having less confidence, and it’s a recipe for players having more belief that they can actually win against the King of Clay.

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Craziness. Daniel’s theory seems a strong possibility. Rafa really never stays at this level for as long as he has this time around.

Unless he wins French Open, I believe this will be his worst clay season since ’04! (Even if he wins French, points wise, it still may be his worst).

James Says:

Nadal’s bh was quite good today. His serve let him down. And his forehand wasn’t that powerful. He wasn’t that good in the big points.
I was disappointed with his MC loss. I didn’t feel too bad about his loss to Almagro today.
I watched this match and I think Nadal will win Rome and French Open. I expect him to play much better in Madrid.

Did anyone watch Kei Nishikori today? He was just too good for Marin Cilic. Kei was breaking Marin’s serve at will. I see him winning the title this Sunday. Gulbis match will be tough tho

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Its rare to see so many Pigeon-Pet sightings at this time of year.

Polo Says:

I think Nadal wants to be written off. He comes back really well each time that happens. He is so humble he prefers being written off than being lauded.

Colin Says:

When Rafa first arrived at the highest level, one didn’t have to be a genius to guess that he would likely burn out while still fairly young. Most of us who thought that, probably assumed the burnout would be physical, but wouldn’t it be ironic if it turned out to be mental? Is his self-belief(which was nothing short of fanatical)going to give out before that precociously powerful body does?

With careful management of the knees, it seemed he could thrive for a while yet, but loss of confidence may be harder to deal with. It would be very sad if his wonderful career ended, in the words of the poem, “not with a bang but a whimper.”

skeezer Says:

Who lost? No comment.


James Says:

Rafa lost, but IMO he played better than he did at Monte Carlo. He was moving better (though nothing like Kei Nishi), bh was impressive. He actually played quite well in 1st set. He troubled Nico every time he went DTL with the forehand or backhand. I don’t know why he wasn’t going more for those. Surprisingly it was his forehand had an off day.

He has about a week to practice more before Madrid. I don’t think he’s going to play good enough to win the title but I think, I hope he will be close to his best by Rome.

James Says:

No comment would mean being quiet, saying nothing…but someone’s happy ;)

Ben Pronin Says:

I’m shocked but I still think it’s too soon to say Nadal is finished and has burnt out or whatever.

Gordon Says:

5 breaks of serve in the final 10 games? Crazy.

This ends Nadal’s clay streak at 2 match wins and 5 consecutive sets.

Polo Says:

Almagro has always been a very good player capable of beating anyone. However, he tends to crumble when it gets close to the end of the match, regardless of who he plays against. This is one of the few times he didn’t. Nadal being the guy he beat was purely coincidental.

James Says:

Nadal’s BP conversion was terrible though, something like 5/18. He had his chances to win in 2 but Nico played the big points quite well this time. And Nadal didn’t.

Lulu Says:

Bummer clay season so far. I may wind up disappointed, but I have learned my lesson about writing Rafa off after a few bad losses. I hope James is right and Rafa is on song by Rome!

Daniel Says:

I am not saying he is burn out, just that for the last 15 months this is the longest and more consistency he has ever played. No big breaks apart from not playing Miami last year.

But also Colin raised a good point, he may burn out mentally. Or not, maybe just bad luck matches and he will win Madrid, Rome and RG.

mat4 Says:

Crisis affect all players. This is without any importance. But, I could see Wawrinka as the big favourite for RG now.

Gordon Says:

You know what? Rafa is Rafa, and even back to back losses should not put him anywhere other than being the favourite to win Roland Garros. Even if he were to lose Madrid and Rome he still has to be counted as the guy to beat.

True, if he goes into Paris with no clay tournament trophies under his belt I will no longer call him the HEAVY favourite to win RG, but I’d still label him as a favourite.

Okiegal Says:

Rafa is letting nerves get to him, imo……maybe the pressure is getting to him a little more. Losing confidence goes with growing older. He’s not old by any means, but so much is expected of him maybe it’s getting to him. He isn’t putting shots away like he used to…..maybe the opponents are learning his game more. These streaks wont go on forever, I’m sad to say.

Will move on to the next tournament…..done with Barca!

Ben Pronin Says:

“Rafa’s slump has not yet gone as deep as Federer’s went in 2010. But in both cases, they show, in case you somehow had forgotten after watching these guys win for so long, that (1) the difference between victory and defeat is paper thin, and (2) when you start to lose the close ones, the other guys will be watching, and they’ll remember. Today, at 5-5 in the tiebreaker, a ball landed on the back of the line for Almagro, instead of landing an inch beyond it. At 4-5 in the third set, a putaway forehand caught the tape for Nadal at break point, instead of going over it by an inch. Because of that, Almagro moves on to the semis, while Nadal will go back to searching for that missing inch. We’ll see in the coming weeks who was watching.”

Well said by Tignor, as always.

Okiegal Says:


Law of average, maybe??? I said it this time to give you a break! lol

Okiegal Says:


Don’t think we can call him the heavy favorite anymore. He is being played pretty close now days, even when he wins.

skeezer Says:

Cult must be is in “the cone of silence”.

Ferrer must have had a Beer with Almagro pre match.

Okiegal Says:

Skeezer, cone or code?? Don’t confuse me, please!! LOL I was accused today of not knowing what satire was…..just trying to stay on top of things….LOL.

Hippy Chic Says:

Skeezer unfortunatly real life got in the way of my blogging,as i need to work to pay the bills to keep the roof over my head,maybe your a millionaire that doesnt need to work just saying?anyway he lost and maybe he isnt the same player anymore only time will tell?but life as they say goes on :))..

skeezer Says:

HC and Okie,

Let’s just say whenever I am bringing up the cult/rafafantics YOU 2 are excluded. These types think rafa can do no wrong, and defend any/all criticism, and think the guy is basically perfect. To top it off they attack everyone/ anyone NOT Rafa Nadal. At least you enjoy watching other players and discussing the game as well as having a fav. Proof in point: you’re still here regardless of him having a tough stretch here on Clay. All good.
I am not gonna comment on Rafa having a bad Clay season until he loses RG. After all, he is the King of Clay.

Hippy Chic Says:

Thankyou Skeezer,Nico is a very talented player whos game is a treat to watch,so even though i didnt actually see the game,kudos to him for the win :))….

Klaas Says:

Stan unlocked the door. Dimitrov, Nishikori, Ferrer and now Almagro pushed it open bit by bit. The home of the big four is being invaded. Will it still stand by the the time the red dust clears the air?

rogerafa Says:

No matter what happens between now and the start of french open, Rafa will remain the overwhelming favorite to win in Paris. It is easier to get hot in a best of three and pip Rafa but best of five at Chatrier is an entirely different thing. Only a fit and in-form Novak seems to have any real chance of beating Rafa there. Rafa will likely grind down everyone else.

Rafa’s ridiculous clay record makes such losses appear shocking but Nico is no slouch on clay. He has just the kind of game that should let him be extremely competitive against Rafa in best of three at least. The more shocking thing is that Rafa has not lost more often on clay. His consistency on clay is simply unbelievable.

Steve 27 Says:

Only if he lose in RG i will admit his decline like Federer in 2010 or Sampras in 2000. , but is a big If. The most important thing are the beloved GS and I will admit this year is wide open: Rafa, Wawrinka and Dkokovic are the favorites to win it, but if he can win Rome before RG, he will be the biggest favorite to win there. Best of 5 in the Philipe Chatrier is different than best of 3 in Montecarlo, Barcelona, Madrid and even Rome. 1 loss in 60 matches tell the whole story. The excitement will be increased by everytime Rafa lose before the French Open, so, no panic yet.

Okiegal Says:


Thanks for seeing me as I am. My guy got whooped on today by Nico! Congrats to him….Hope he wins the trophy! That would be a push in the right direction for him!

Hang tuff, Rafa, if you lose the #1 ranking, the sun will still rise from the east and go down in the west…..and you will still go down in tennis history as the greatest clay courter of all time!

Regarding RG…….looking dismal at this point…..prove me wrong, Rafa!

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Nico is no slouch on clay? Well, in terms of you and me, yes. In terms of contending for French Open and Masters, well, kind of a slouch.
Tignor is wrong. Almagro didn’t win because a shot made it in by an inch. He won because Rafa allowed him to be in a position where a lucky inch made a difference.
You don’t win two hands full of Romes, Monte Carloses, Barcelonas and RGs by getting lucky on an inch here and there. You get it because you are BETTER than everyone else so the lucky inch here and there doesn’t bother you.
Something that never happened before happened last week. Then it happened this week.
I would be very interested in how the RG oddsmakers changed the math today, but I’m sure it has changed.
Rafa is still the favourite for RG. But if he fails to win Rome or Madrid, he won’t be, especially if he loses to guys not named Novak.

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Not to say I’m in the ‘Rafa is done’ camp. No way. He’s a champ and he’ll kill himself to get back on top. But in terms of his unprecedented clay dominance, one can’t pretend this ain’t no slump.

tweener Says:

ha ha! I’m so amused at what is brewing up here.

Nadal lost 2 clay tourneys and people started believing, he is no more “the favourite” but “one of the favourites” now.

Let me declare this- if he stays title-less on clay before RG this year, he WILL WIN RG for sure. Well, if it doesn’t go that way, I will be gone from here forever. MARK MY WORDS!
Ok now, if he goes on to win the next 2 masters, i may differ. Why i say that because, without a single clay title in his beloved clay season before RG, he’ll be like the famed “eye of the tiger” stuff. He will trample everyone on his way to his 9th RG title.

The point is RG is nadal’s hunting ground and there is some reason why he has lost just 1 match there over the last decade and that is why ‘sod’ is so popular even with a not-so-illustrious and curtailed career.

I am no nadal fan, but taking him out of contention for RG just because he lost couple of matches is really amusing. LMAO!

Andrea Says:

Hopefully nadal gets confidence back but for once it is refreshing to have a less predicable clay season.

Sivaji Says:

MY WORST FEAR IS HAPPENING AS I PREDICTED. But, Nadal knows what to do?. Sure he will do it and win RG. History also tells that after winning hard court titles, especially USO/AO he will be down for a year. Hope this year he will manage win RG and then no titles and become NO. 2 or No. 3. 2015 is his then

metan Says:

Panic, no, but need to raise the alarm little bit.

Hippy Chic Says:

Exactly panic why panic?its a game of tennis hardly life or death,the time i would panic is if i had no money to pay my bills at the end of the month,a little perspective purlease this is only a game of tennis,seriously Rafa has nought left to prove on clay anymore anyway,win or lose hes still the king of clay nothing changes that….

Okiegal Says:


Poor Rafa……don’t you know how he must dread the aftermath of a defeat?? I wonder if he panics like some of his fans? He is always the first to say that it is impossible to win every match. Rafa’s body language is just not as intense as it once was, imo.
Maybe the hype isn’t there anymore……He seems a bit downtrodden to me…….a tired Rafa?? I think he needs a long rest. I do feel for him during these troubling times.

Chic, you are so right…..the guy has nothing more to prove on clay, or any other surface for that matter. He has shown the tennis world that he is one of the best to have ever picked up a racquet!!

madmax Says:

Dont get lulled into a false sense of securing, anyone, who thinks that rafa is finished. Ridiculous ! He will get back to his winning ways. Everyone has a streaky patch every now and again. He is entitled to his. Am not worried for one minute. I so mean that. If he kept winning all the time, without any doubts, then again, we would be wondering, is there any competition?

Fact is, there is plenty of competition in the mens game, and never more so than now.

I fully expect nadal to win RG. These are always tournaments where he can see where his game is at and know then what he has to do for the “biggie”.

QF is still a great achievement. If it had been Roger getting to the QFs, we would be saying the same thing.

It is just that nadal has set the bar so very high on clay, that for anyone to beat him, then it is shock horror time, when it shouldn’t be.

By definition, everyone has improved. No one stays static. You either improve, or you go under.

Exciting times ahead.

Wheels Says:

Rather sad to see Rafa look a bit dejected in the photo but it is way early to panic. He is too good a player and will be back. All the players have lulls but find a way to fight back.

Alexandra Says:

Bad moment for Rafa right now.
I have not written off Federer last year, I certainly will not write off Rafa either.
They are both great champions. Rafa had created a monster on clay, like Fed said about himself as well. Any loss of him comes unexpected and is treated as a shock. And I would say the ranking is the least of his worries right now.
Maybe some people find this clay court season refreshing, but many fans of Rafa certainly don’t. You could also say it’s refreshing Federer not winning or Djokovic not winning.
I have just read over the years how boring the clay court season is. Rafa does not get the respect he deserves with how well he dealt with the pressure of not allowing to lose on clay. There is a difference of being expected to doing well (like Djokovic on hard courts, wins a lot but not everything), and expected to win every match on the surface.
I doubt Rafa’s losses have anything to do with Wawrinka opening doors for other players. Rafa just does not play good enough these days. Whatever the reason is, I hope he can solve it. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if that takes some time. Maybe not in time to win RG. And everybody can see Rafa is not himself, so they will feel extra confident. If Rafa doesn’t win RG this year it might not be a surprise. Certainly not as shocking as the Soderling match.

Okiegal Says:

Is it time to panic?? Heck no…….it was about time for Nico to beat him…….just saying….

Okiegal Says:


Great post, nicely put. Rafa is in a slight funk. He acts like his hearts not in it atm…..but he will figure it out, he usually does. He has a very tired look to me…….jmo….

Polo Says:

Five set match against Nadal at the French Open, I will still pick Nadal no matter how badly he has been playing in tournaments prior to that. His opponents better not have false hopes. They still have to work really hard and play their best if they want to beat Nadal there.

Rocket Says:

I missed this place. I forgot what I loved so much about tennis-x is that the quality of the comments are generally better than the quality of the journalism. However, the few cult members who will chop off their own ding dongs or (gasp) promise to never return to this site forever if Nadal doesn’t win RG clearly lack imagination and respect for what is possible in today’s men’s game — and add little provocation here.

Football is a brutal sport.

skeezer Says:

Keep checkin in. Times will change soon enough and quality posting will return. Very few will chime in now with the kinda of worship sock puppet talk that goes on nowadays. And then there is one who only tries to post to be funny(fail). They’re (quality posters)out there and will be back.

Okiegal Says:

Okiegal is back……being a quality poster and all! LOL

amadeus Says:

where is the “Retire” word in this article?
not yet

Sirius Says:

I see there has been no sign of an Age that has been Translated or some Slices of Tennis for a while.

Hmmm…. I wonder why

madmax Says:

I think everyone is just waiting for RG to come around. Seems a long wait to me. I know the masters in between, and don’t get me wrong, they are exciting (especially when watching Roger play), but the slams – just nothing like them!

The best thing about it, is when the punters say who is going to win, and stake their lives on it, only to be totally wrong and then there are the Barry Cowans of this world, who stay with one player, then half way through the match, changes his mind!

Roland Garros cannot come soon enough.

I cannot imagine that Roger would not play either. The birth of baby no.3 (or no.3 and 4?), will coincide with the final, me thinks.

Top story: Nadal Survives Shapovalov Epic At Rome Masters; Djokovic Rolls, Thiem Upset