Rafael Nadal loses by wasting 3 match points: it only happened 9 times in his career

This is Nadal's 9th career defeat after failing to convert a match point

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Rafael Nadal loses by wasting 3 match points: it only happened 9 times in his career
© Chris Hyde / Stringer Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal can be satisfied with what he did at the 2024 Brisbane International. The Spanish tennis player, who is back on the court a year after the serious injury suffered at the 2024 Australian pen, was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 in Brisbane by Jordan Thompson.

Nadal suffered a physical problem in his groin (near the hip) in the match lost against the Australian. Yet, Rafa showed an excellent level of psycho-physical fitness. Overall, his body reacted well to physical stress, also considering his 37 years, the year out of the tour due to injury and the high humidity and heat conditions of Brisbane.

A spectacular match, which the 22-time Slam champion seemed capable of winning, but a few too many errors in the decisive moments and a hip problem allowed Thompson to overcome the deficit and reach the semi-finals, where waiting for him will be Grigor Dimitrov.

Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

The biggest regrets for the Spanish champion are all concentrated in the second set, when he had a match point canceled out at 5-4 and two more in the tiebreak, one of which sent a rather simple forehand down the corridor.

The defeat against Thompson is one of the very few matches Nadal lost after failing to score a match point. For Nadal it is in fact only the ninth defeat in his career after not having taken advantage of a match point. The last one dates back to 2019, again against an Australian tennis player, when the Spaniard was beaten in the round of 16 of the ATP 500 in Acapulco by Nick Kyrgios, after failing three match points in the tiebreak of the decisive set.

We have to go back to 2016 to find another comeback suffered by Nadal, the one against Domich Thiem in Buenos Aires. The first, however, actually dates back to 2003, when Nadal lost against the Ecuadorian Lapentti, in Bastad.

Below, the complete list of tennis players capable of overcoming the Spanish champion after conceding match points: Lapentti, Bastad, 2003

Calleri, Indian Wells 2004
Ferrer, Stuttgart 2004
Berdych, Cincinnati 2005
Davydenko, Doha 2010
Raonic, Indian Wells 2015
Thiem, Buones Aires 2016
Kyrgios, Acapulco 2019
Thompson, Brisbane 2024

The match and Rafa's words

A battle lasting three hours and 24 minutes ends 5-7 7-6(8) 6-3 for the Australian, a rather significant expenditure of energy for the 37-year-old Majorcan, just under 10 days before his return to the Australian Open, last official tournament played by Nadal before the 2023 surgery.

The Australian achieved a real feat by perfectly executing the tactical plan established before taking the court. Thompson played risky but effective tennis and tried not to lose ground with shots beyond the baseline. The Australian completed the comeback and eliminated Nadal.

The Spaniard can still be satisfied with the level expressed upon his return after almost a year and with the two victories obtained against Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler. The performance of Nadal and Thompson proved to be very high, especially in the second set.

The Australian attempted an attack at 1-1, but Nadal attacked with authority. Thompson did the same in the next game, canceling three break points. It is in this context that Thompson found the courage to oppose fate. The Australian grabbed the decisive set by canceling three match points: one at 4-5 and two in a surreal tie-break.

Thompson appeared fresher than Nadal and in the fourth game he took advantage of his opportunity by accompanying a good forehand to the net. Nadal started massaging the area between his hip and groin and took advantage of a medical time out.

The Australian didn't take any more risks on serve and achieved one of the most exciting victories of his career. He will now face Grigor Dimitrov, in the semi-final of the 2024 Brisbane International.

Rafael Nadal and Jordan Thompson© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

The Spanish champion presented himself at the press conference and the questions were, naturally, about the discomfort he had during the third set (which also forced him to ask for a medical timeout on 1-4) and current physical conditions.

"I have to see how I wake up tomorrow. In recent days, when I have spoken, I have always done so with caution because I know that after a year it is difficult for the body to be able to compete in top-level tournaments. You never know how he will react.

That's why I have to accept things as they come. I hope it's nothing serious and I can have the chance to train next week in Melbourne. The truth is, right now I'm not 100% sure about anything. It's in a similar area to last year, but different.

I feel it more on a muscular level. Last year it was the tendon and this one feels more like a tired muscle. The only problem is that it's in a similar area and that makes you a little more worried than normal. The best thing that can happen is that the muscles are very full after the effort of these three days.

It would be ideal, but today we cannot know. If I don't feel well, I'll do some tests and we'll understand. Now it's time to stay calm and wait to see how I wake up." he explained.

Rafael Nadal