Rafael Nadal suffered a hard exit in the fourth round US Open on Monday against Americans Frances Tiafoe. The 22-time major champion knew there were no excuses. Tiafoe was just the better player that day.
“We can whine or complain about a lot of things now, but I don’t think so [is] will change any situation,” Nadal said. “We can think if I [didn’t] get hurt, maybe I’ll win Wimbledon. I might win [other] things [in] the past. Or maybe I lost [other] Things because I couldn’t build up that inner strength after all the injuries.
“It’s part of my career. Many times went the right way; sometimes completely unexpected like Australia, like Roland Garros. Of course, that wasn’t the ideal preparation for me. But in other cases the right way went, even with less than perfect preparation. We find no excuses. We have to be critical enough with myself. That’s the only way you can improve, or that’s the only way I understand that you can find solutions.”
Tiafoe played a clean, aggressive match in which he took on Nadal. The American hit 49 winners compared to just 28 unforced errors to reach his first quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows. Nadal couldn’t find a solution inside Arthur Ashe Stadion.
“The difference is simple: I played a bad match and he played a good match. In the end, that was it,” Nadal said. “I haven’t been able to maintain a high level in tennis for a long time. I wasn’t quick enough in my movements. He could take the ball very early too many times that I couldn’t push him back.
“Tennis is often a positional sport. If not, you must be very, very fast and very young. I’m not in this moment anymore. My recordings had to get better. Somehow my understanding of the game and the quality of my shots weren’t good enough, it was bad, I think I have to say today, because I couldn’t do that much [against] him.”
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In the second round, Nadal fell back with one set and 2:4 Fabio Fognini. The Italian had previously defeated the left-hander in New York but the four-time champion found a way through. Nadal was adamant he was playing better in training than in two games that came into play in the third round against the former world No. 7 Richard Gasquet.
It wasn’t enough against Tiafoe, who won his first win against Nadal.
“To be honest, I trained well the week before. But then when the competition started, my level dropped. That’s the truth. For some reason, I don’t know, mental issues regarding a lot of things have been happening in the last few months,” Nadal said. “But [that] does not matter. In the end, the only thing that happened is that we went into the fourth round of the US Open and I met a player who was better than me. And that’s why I have a plane back home.”
Nadal explained that Tiafoe was playing “more solidly than before” and the American was serving well. The Spaniard added he hadn’t done enough to “raise doubts” in the home favourite.
“All credit goes to him, without a doubt. That’s the truth. He did a lot of things well. But at the end of the day, when you finish a match, it’s obviously important to acknowledge all the good things your opponent is doing or has done. Yes, without a doubt,” said Nadal. “But in the end I have to analyze myself more than the opponent. I finished the game 15 minutes ago. Still difficult for me to analyze.”
It was nonetheless an impressive Grand Slam season for Nadal, who won the Australian Open and Roland Garros for the first time. The left-hander scored in the semifinals Wimbledon before withdrawing due to injury.
“I had my chances. I had that break, then I had a 15/40 again. I had a love 30 in the first set and missed the return on the second serve. There have been many moments when when you’re ready to grasp that point, [the] The situation can change,” said Nadal. “[That] can make a big difference. It’s all about trust. It is only about [playing] better than in the end this sport is about that [when you are given] The possibilities, [taking] Take chances and try to save if the opponent is doing well.
“I wasn’t able to do any of that this afternoon. So he could. He played with the right determination. Happy birthday to him. Wish him all the best.”