ROME – Raphael Nadal, fast and dominant in the first set against Denis Shapovalov, was the exact opposite at the Italian Open on Thursday night.
The ball is late. Limp between points Grimming and winning on changes too. His frustration was so great that in the final set, double faults and unforced errors piled up so late that even the Canadian fans sitting high in the center court stands applauded Nadal sympathetically as his compatriot Shapovalov The victory was finalized. 1-6, 7-5, 6-2, in Round of 16.
Shapovalov, ranked 16th with a flexible and explosive left hand, has tools that can upset even a healthy Nadal. He defeated her in her first match in 2017 when Shapovalov was still a teenager, and she should have beaten him in the Round of 16 at the Italian Open last year when he failed to convert two match points. He pushed Nadal to five sets at this year’s Australian Open.
But it was far from healthy for Nadal, with a chronic problem of his left foot, known as Müller-Weiss disease, to return to his favorite level. With the rise of the French Open, his mood after that was as depressing and disturbing as I can remember in almost 20 years after his career.
“I imagine there will be a time when my head will say, ‘Enough,'” said Nadal, the 10-time Italian Open champion, chasing his lips in Spanish and shaking his head. Pain robs you of happiness not only in tennis but also in life. And my problem is that I live with so much pain for so many days.
Nadal said he also had to live with “a ton of anti-inflammatory drugs a day to train himself.”
“That’s my reality,” he said. “And many days have passed, like today, when the moment comes when I can’t do it.”
He finished on Thursday with 34 unforced errors and just 13 winners, and now the question is whether he will be able to play in the most successful clay quarterback French Open, Grand Slam tournament in history, which he has won a record 13 times. Is.
“I will keep dreaming about that goal,” Nadal said of the tournament. “The downside is that it’s not possible for me to play today, but maybe in two days things will get better. That’s what’s on my feet.
The French Open will start on May 22 in nine days, although Nadal may not have to play until May 24 because the French Open, which starts on Sunday, starts in its first round in three days.
Although Nadal, who turns 36 next month, has often shown amazing fighting spirit and healing powers, it will be a challenge like no other in Paris this spring.
“It’s definitely hard to see him in trouble in the end. I never want to see him, especially with a great legend like Rafa,” said Shapovalov, who still has to offer bold tennis and great services to win on Thursday. Were “Hopefully he’s fine. He brings a lot to our game. Hope he’s fit and ready to go to France.
Nadal had the only chance to win Roland Garros without winning a clay court tournament earlier this year in 2020, a short season due to the epidemic when the start of the French Open was moved to October and almost the entire clay court season was canceled. Was done .
This year the schedule has returned to normal, but not for Nadal. After a strong start to the season, with 20 consecutive wins at the Australian Open and a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, his clay court campaign was delayed due to a fractured rib fracture that forced him to compete for six weeks or Usually stopped practicing. .
He returned to the Madrid Open this month and was upset with 19-year-old Spanish thriller Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals and now has his first defeat at the Italian Open since 2008, when Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former number one. There were 1. Now the coach of Alcaraz, surprised Nadal in the second round.
Nadal won the 2008 French Open anyway, beating rival Roger Federer in the final, but Nadal had already won titles this year in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Hamburg.
This season, he has been low on clay and in victories, while threats like Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Setsipas and new players like Alcaraz have laid strong foundations.
“After all, even the greatest players can’t beat Father’s time,” said Bradstein, an experienced American coach who is now working with Tommy Paul. “It’s getting to this point for Rafi. What he did in Australia was extraordinary, but I think we’re seeing a suicidal start to his great start to the season. If he’s healthy, he’s It’s still a favorite weekend and out of the week, but if it’s big.
This is a reference to the “if”, an excerpt of which is posted on the doorstep of the players’ Wimbledon Center Court.
After watching Nadal in Roland Garros for almost 15 years, almost always overcoming difficulties and opposition, it is hard to imagine that he would not really find a way to present a challenge.
“I will fight for it,” he said sternly. “I will continue to believe during this week and a half.”
What is clear is that change does not have to be this way. “There’s no way,” said veteran coach and analyst Mark Petchi. “Lots of co-players and players with real chances of winning.”
Their long list includes defending champion Djokovic. Last year’s second finalist, Tsitsipas Alcaraz Alexander Zverev Casper Road And the young Italian genius sinner.
Nadal has played only five matches on clay since losing to Djokovic in the four-set semi-final in Paris last June, losing two of them.
Seeing him struggle, then finally Hubble on Thursday, was a reminder that nothing is eternal, not even Nadal at the level he has made his own.