Monte Carlo | Nadal suffers painful loss
The news that Rafa Nadal had suffered a defeat reverberated around the tennis world leading to thoughts that an era might well be coming to a close
I played one of my worst matches on clay in 14 years, It's difficult to find any positives -- I deserved to lose Rafa Nadal
Quarter finals day had been exciting with the demise of Novak Djokovic and the fright that Nadal suffered at the hands of Guido Pella, but that was nothing compared to the shock of the King of Clay’s reign at the Monte Carlo Masters, ending 24-hours later.
Nadal himself looked shocked at the 6-4 6-2 result inflicted by Fabio Fognini which prevented him extending his record of 11 titles in the Principality, declaring that it would be ‘hard to return to the practice court’.
What is now certain is that his challengers will face him with a more confident approach and his titles in Barcelona, Rome and even the French Open, could well be under threat. As could his ranking at No.2.
“It will be hard to return to the practice court,” a downcast Nadal said after his fourth loss to Fognini, three of which have come on his favourite surface. “I lost an opportunity in a very important event for me. I’m sad for that.”
The Spaniard has been having trouble with his knees and took a month off prior to the European clay court swing to ensure he was fully fit for the coming months and his return to Paris.
“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.”
He even came close to losing the second set to love but managed to stave off three match points to prevent the ignominy of a bagel, something he last suffered when he lost the the opening set to Guillermo Coria in the 2005 final before going on to beat the Argentine in four.
“I was lucky to win two (second-set) games to avoid an even worse score,” he admitted.
“I’m thinking about how bad I played today – (to) understand the things,” the 32-year-old 17-time grand slam champion said ruefully. “Coming back from injuries, winning and winning and winning is not easy.
“I played one of my worst matches on clay in 14 years,” he added. “It’s difficult to find any positives — I deserved to lose.”
Meanwhile Fognini was reflecting on his spectacular victory with immense pride and revealed at a press conference that he had spoken to Nadal on the previous day. “With Rafa, it’s always difficult. You know, I was telling him yesterday that I was knowing that I have the game to play against him.
“I had a really good week, did some good work,” the Italian added. “I was born near here, I know how to play on clay. This will be the final that no-one expected, I just hope to recover well and be ready.”
When questioned if he thought Nadal was under the weather, Fognini replied: “I don’t know. That’s not the question that I have to answer.
“You should ask him. I played incredible match. Of course was really tough to play, because it was cold, was windy.
“I’m calm, I want to enjoy my victory,” Fognini concluded after reaching his first final at the Masters 1000 level. “I’ve beaten Rafa on clay, I’m really happy.”
The final will be played out between the seeded Fognini and the unseeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic who in turn earlier had upset the tenth seed from Russia, the much-fancied Daniil Medvedev, 7-5 6-1 in what is the first occasion since 2004 that neither Nadal, Djokovic or Federer have featured.
It should be a fascinating final with Fognini the clear facourite but one shouldn’t underestimate the Serbian who produced a rousing fightback to defeat Medvedev after trailing the Russian 3-0 and 5-1 in the first set.
“Of course it’s a surprise to play Lajovic, but he’s playing good,” Fognini added when asked to look ahead.
Medvedev did find the conditions tricky and became very frustrated when Lajovic took a commanding 4-0 lead in the second.
“It was an incredible match today,” said Lajovic, wo at No.48 is the lowest-ranked player to reach the final in Monte Carlo since Hicham Arazi in 2001.
“I had the worst nightmare, falling down 5-1, but I won 10 games in a row, so I was able to find my rhythm and my game.
“In windy conditions like today, it was impossible to play real tennis and in the end I was able to hit my forehands better than him. I’m still unaware of my achievement in Monte Carlo.”
Following Sunday’s final a new name will feature on the Monte Carlo Masters trophy and it will be interesting to see which one of them will have that honour.