By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Defeat does not dent Rafael Nadal’s defiant determination.
Felix Auger-Aliassime swept Nadal 6-3, 6-4 scoring his first win over the king of clay at the ATP Finals in Turin—and dealing a near death-knell to the Spaniard’s shot of securing the year-end top spot.
If Casper Ruud wins one set against Taylor Fritz in tonight’s second Red Group round-robin match, then 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz will conclude the season as the youngest-ever ATP year-end world No. 1.
“Winning two slams was not enough,” said Nadal, a five-time, year-end world No. 1. “Of course, was not enough because I was not able to play. I don’t know how many tournaments I played, 10, 11, maybe 12. Finished maybe nine, 10, in good conditions.
“It’s difficult comparing and fighting against the young guys that they are super good, and at the same time they are able to play as many tournaments as they want, no? Is normal they are in the situation I was, like, 15 years ago. Just well done for Carlos in this case. Happy for him. Big achievement for him. Well done.”
The second-ranked Spaniard, who opened the season on a 21-match winning streak, suffered his fourth consecutive loss today with all four losses coming against North American opponents.
It’s the first time Nadal has lost four matches in a row since 2009 when he bowed to Novak Djokovic (twice), Robin Soderling and Nikolay Davydenko.
This losing streak sparked a comeback vow in Nadal, who told the media in Turin he is going to die trying to regain his level.
“I mean, I don’t think I forget how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally,” Nadal said. “I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be.
“And I don’t know if I going to reach that level again. But what I don’t have any doubt, that I going to die for it.”
It’s been a life-changing season for Nadal, who became a first-time father last month.
Now, the 22-time Gand Slam king is determined to make a big bounce back down under where Nadal will be defending his Australian Open title in January.
Nadal says he will respond with the same approach that’s served him so well throughout his legendary career: stay hungry, stay humble and accept the suffering to fuel his competitive comeback.
“What can happen in Australia? I don’t know. Remain a month and a half [from now],” Nadal said. “What can I do to give myself a positive chances to have a good season next year?
“As always, be humble enough to accept that I have a challenge in front, that the last six months have been very difficult for me, and I need to work more and I need to recover things that I lost because I was not able to practice the proper way, I was not able to compete the proper way.
“What I have to do now is come back, work hard, stay positive every single day, accept the challenge, accept that I going to need to suffer a little bit more. If I will be ready to go through all this process, we going to know in a couple of months I have the determination going through that.”
Photo credit: Marco Bertorello/Getty
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