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Rafael Nadal: “The difference is easy: I played a bad match, he played a good match”

Rafael Nadal was not happy at all about his level of play through his loss against Frances Tiafoe.

Rafael Nadal, US Open 2022 Rafael Nadal, US Open 2022 ; AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Rafael Nadal hates losing. But what Rafael Nadal hates more than losing, it’s losing while not being good enough. And on Monday against Frances Tiafoe, the Spaniard didn’t find he was at the level required. At all. The man who hadn’t lost a match at a Grand Slam event until then didn’t have to go too deep to understand the reasons of his loss.

“Well, the difference is easy: I played a bad match and he played a good match. In the end that’s it, no? I was not able to hold a high level of tennis for a long time. I was not enough quick with my movements. He was able to take the ball too many times very early, so I was not able to push him back.”

“Tennis is very often a sport of position. If not, you need to be very, very quick and very young (smiling). I am not anymore. My shots need to be better. In some way my understanding of the game and the quality of my shots were not good enough and were poor. I have to say. Because today I was not able to create that much on him. Well done for him. He was better than me.”

Nadal of course knew that with Tiafoe’s risky game, his chance was to hang in there and make him doubt so then when the doubt would get into his rival’s brain, the errors would come out of his racquet. But he just couldn’t execute the strategy at all.

“I don’t think I pushed him enough to create the doubts that I need to create”

“Tiafoe is playing more solid than before, serving well, taking the ball very early” said Nadal. “Good backhands. He’s quick, as everybody knows. But I don’t think I pushed him enough to create the doubts that I need to create. Tennis is always a balance. When somebody’s not playing that well, it’s easier for the opponent to play better.”

“So if my ball is not a high-quality ball, then he’s able to do his game much easier. That’s the thing. Of course, he did things well. If not, he would not win, without a doubt. I’m completely happy to recognize that he was much better than me today. But in the end, I need to analyze that I was not able to create the damage that normally I used to do.”

He had so many lapses in that match that ended up costing him the win, maybe, especially the break he lost (3-1, 3-3) in the fourth set with two double-faults in it. Roof or no roof, it didn’t change anything as Rafa’s issues on Monday were all inside his game. And for sure, one has to think that getting injured during Wimbledon and being prevented from hitting the ball for weeks had an influence in New York.

His serve was clearly not at the required level and his whole game looked rusty until he – until that match – found a way to wake it up and invent solutions to get through. Unfortunately for Nadal, Tiafoe came and exposed his limitations of the moment. But the Spaniard refused to dwell too much on it.

Nadal : “When the competition started, my level went down”

“Well, we can complain now about a lot of things, but I don’t think that’s going to change the situation, no? We can think If I don’t get injured maybe I win Wimbledon. Maybe I would win other things in the past. Or maybe I lost other things because I was not able to create this interior power after all that injuries, no? That’s part of my career.”

“A lot of times it went the proper way, sometimes completely unexpectedly like in Australia, like at Roland Garros. Of course, this was not the ideal preparation for me, but in other cases, it went the right way, even with not the perfect preparation, no? We can’t find excuses. That’s the only way to improve.”

“I have been practicing well the week before, but then when the competition started, my level went down. For some reason, I don’t know, mental issues in terms of a lot of things that happened in the last couple of months. Maybe… But it doesn’t matter. In the end, the only thing that happened is we went to the fourth round of the US Open and I faced a player that was better than me. And that’s why I am having a plane back home.”

Rafael Nadal, who’s about to become a father, seemed not sure about when he’d be back on Tour, hinted at maybe needing a break, but then he also said he wanted to add a training block and finish his season in Europe, fighting for the World No 1 ranking. So let’s see what he will decide in the end, also as he’s supposed to play the Laver Cup with the rest of the Big 4 in two and a half weeks.

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