For the third time in his career, the second in a Grand Slam tournament, Rafael Nadal has lost a game after winning the first two sets. He had happened in Miami in 2005 and at the US Open in 2015, respectively against Roger Federer and Fabio Fognini.
Today Stefanos Tsitsipas had the honor of putting together two sets of one of the best players in tennis history. Nadal completely dominated the first two halves, but was unable to end the match at the third set tiebreaker due to some unusual mistakes.
In the fourth and fifth sets, Tsitsipas raised his level of play and made the most of the opportunities his opponent gave him.
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"A little bit of everything," Rafael Nadal said when asked about some of the opportunities he missed.
"I missed a couple of balls in the tiebreaker that I shouldn’t miss if I want to win. Tsitispas played great from the third set. I missed an opportunity to be in the semis again, well done for him, he was better in the important moments."
Rafael Nadal made five unforced errors in the tiebreaker, which is half the amount of errors he accumulated in the first two sets combined. The Spaniard, however, focused more on Stefanos Tsitsipas' level than his own, insisting that the Greek was simply too good for him.
"In the 4th and 5th set he played at a very high level and I have made some mistakes in important moments," Nadal said. "I have to go to practice and improve. It was close, but it wasn’t enough. Physically I was not fantastic, but not bad either.
In the tiebreak I made a few mistakes that I shouldn't," Nadal noted. Tennis is an intense sport, and long ralliers often tire out their competitors. So a lot of players aren’t fans of the 25-second shot clock that urges them to maintain a similar pace after every point.
Rafael Nadal has never been an advocate of this newfound rule in tennis. “You have to do it after the score, because if not you can see, it’s impossible to play. It’s against the good show,” Nadal said.
His statements implied that the chair umpires are too quick to activate the shot clock after every point in a match. Nadal isn’t the only one who is against the 25-second shot clock rule. Novak Djokovic has also found himself on a similar side of the argument when he was penalized during the Australian Open 2020 for running down the timer.