Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal admitted that it will be “hard to return to the practice court” after a shock semi-final defeat by Fabio Fognini ended his bid for a record-extending 12th Monte Carlo Masters title on Saturday.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion starts his Barcelona Open title defence on Wednesday, as he also fights to keep his world-number-two ranking before the French Open gets underway next month.
The 32-year-old said he played “one of my worst matches in 14 years on clay” in losing 6-4, 6-2 to Italian Fognini, having been forced to save three match points at 5-0 in the second set.
“It will be hard to return to the practice court,” a subdued Nadal said after his fourth loss to Fognini, three of which have come on his beloved clay.
“I lost an opportunity in a very important event for me. I’m sad for that.”
Nadal has struggled with knee injuries this season, and was playing his first event since withdrawing before an Indian Wells semi-final against Roger Federer last month.
“There was little chance for me to start the clay-court season in a perfect way,” he insisted.
“It was a bad day, the kind of day where the feeling is not there at all. It’s difficult to find positive ways today.”
Nadal was close to losing his first set to love in Monte Carlo since the 2005 final, where he beat Guillermo Coria in four sets.