Last Saturday, World number 2 Rafael Nadal lost in two straight sets to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals of the BNL Internationals of Italy. Most surprising was the fact that the defeat came in a tournament the Spaniard had won nine times.
After shining beyond expectations in the first two rounds, the former world number 1 ran into a black day, exacerbated by the phenomenal performance of the Argentine, who played perhaps the best game of his entire career.
It should be noted that the 19-time Grand Slam champion was making his first appearance on the circuit in over six months, so a hint of rust on his favorite surface is perfectly normal. The Majorcan did not seek extenuating circumstances, having in mind what he needs to improve in his game to reach the top at the beginning of Roland Garros.
Nadal: 'It has been an unpredictable year'
"After such a long time without competing, I played good two matches, and now today, I played a bad one against a good opponent," Rafael Nadal said. "It is a completely special and unpredictable year.
I don’t know. I will probably go back home and then see what’s going on. I did my job here," Nadal said. "I fought until the end. But losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match, no? It's something that I have to fix.
I know how to do it. I'm gonna keep working and keep practicing with the right attitude and try to give myself a chance to be ready," Nadal said. However, Nadal was quick to shake off any excuses for his straight sets defeat to Diego Schwartzman, who was playing at a spectacularly high level.
"We can find excuses, but I didn’t play enough well. I have to think internally about how I can fix it. Now is not the moment to find excuses," Nadal finished. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic won a record-breaking 36th Masters title after beating Diego Schwartzman in straight sets in the Rome Masters final.
Playing in his first tournament since disqualification from the US Open, Djokovic recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the opening set to win 7-5 6-3 and move one ahead of Rafael Nadal in all-time Masters wins. "I don't think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most, in the decisive moments, today, yesterday, practically every match. That makes me definitely very satisfied and proud," said Djokovic.