Battling injuries, Rafael Nadal experienced a couple of low-key seasons by his standards and barely stayed in the top 10 for the next two years. With a fresh start, Rafa was the player to beat again in 2017, claiming the Roland Garros crown and placing himself in the top-3 again.
After more than four years, Nadal will leave the aforementioned group, fighting injuries in the current season and winning only two titles in Barcelona and Rome. Nadal has failed to reach a Major final in 2021, skipping Wimbledon due to a foot injury he sustained in the Roland Garros semi-final against Novak Djokovic.
Rafa had to miss three weeks and returned to the practice court in July before his debut in Washington this week. Chasing a good result ahead of Toronto, Nadal faced Jack Sock in the second round and stayed on the court for more than three hours to further stress his foot.
Rafa prevailed in the decisive tiebreaker, admitting that he is still not in his prime, but decided to play in the third round. Giving his best to Lloyd Harris, Nadal lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes, wasting his chances in the final set and breaking at 4-5 to power the South African.
Rafa's current streak in the top 3 was the ninth longest since 1973, and he is the fourth 35-year-old in the top 3 after Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer.
Lloyd Harris played a very smart match vs. Nadal
Lloyd Harris registered the biggest win of his career on Thursday when he beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to move into the quarterfinals of the 2021 Citi Open.
Speaking to the ATP Tour after his win over Nadal, Harris said conquering the 20-time Major champion in front of a capacity crowd was "very special" "Today was really special. I think I have had some big wins, and this year I have beat some Grand Slam champions," Harris said.
"But to beat a 20-time Grand Slam champion, and especially in front of a full crowd and with such an amazing atmosphere, it was definitely something very special." During his press conference, Harris pointed out how staying composed and playing his natural game allowed him to stage such an upset.
"I did a lot of good things. I think the best thing was to stay in the moment, keep my composure, and I think I just stayed with my game and stayed playing a consistently good level throughout the match," Harris said.
"It was a good, quality match, I think. Not easy for me out there. It was pretty physical, but all in all, I'm just super happy with how everything turned out."