Making his Masters 1000 debut as a qualifier, the 16-year-old Rafael Nadal showed his full potential on his beloved clay, ousting Karol Kucera in the first round and toppling the reigning Roland Garros winner Albert Costa for the first top-10 victory and the place in the last 16.
There, Rafa faced Guillermo Coria and fought well in the opener before the Argentine clinched a 7-6, 6-2 triumph in an hour and 34 minutes. Both players created eight break chances and it was Coria who seized five of those, getting broken thrice and controlling the pace after that tight opener that he claimed following a forehand error from Nadal at 3-6 in the tie break.
At 5-1 down in set number two, Rafa pulled one break back before giving serve again in the next game following a poor drop shot that propelled Coria into the last eight. "I'm happy with this tournament despite this loss, and how I played today, producing solid tennis and creating opportunities.
I believe Guillermo was physically stronger than me. I had played many matches in the last couple of days and I felt a little bit tired, I have to admit. My shots were not where I wanted them to be and Guillermo overpowered me; he deserves the victory.
I defeated Costa yesterday but there wasn't possible against Coria, although I'm happy with a 7-6, 6-2 loss, that's not that bad against such a good player. I will take some rest tomorrow and start preparing for Barcelona after that.
Instead of in Valencia, I will play a Challenger at the end of April in France, with Valencia organizers not being able to confirm a wild card for me. Nothing will change after Monte Carlo despite a good result, I will continue with what I have been doing every day.
At events like this, you learn how to play on a high level and I will try to keep it in the upcoming weeks. People keep asking me about Richard Gasquet and I can't say much, we played at juniors but we never talked much, my English is not that good."