Rafael Nadal was bundled out of the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday by Andrey Rublev in a hard-fought three-setter. The loss ended Nadal's bid for a record-extending 12th title at the Masters 1000 event.
Andrey Rublev had entered the clash trailing Rafael Nadal 0-2 in their head-to-head, and was facing the the Spaniard on clay for the first time. But the 23-year-old was far from overwhelmed by the occasion, and he put up a power-packed display to reach the last four.
While speaking to the media after the shock loss, Rafael Nadal heaped praise on the young Russian before diving deep into his own play. Nadal coughed up seven double faults during the match (with five coming in the first set alone), and in the presser he called his serve a 'disaster'.
"When you face a great player like him and you don’t play well, you should lose, no?" Rafael Nadal said. "For some reason, I had problems with my serve. I don't know understand why because I was not having problems with the practices at all. But today was one of these days that my serve was a disaster."
Rafael Nadal went on to stress just how crucial the serve is in tennis, insisting that the shot played a big role on the rest of his game too. The World No. 3 struggled to get out of tough situations on his own serve, which he claimed put more pressure on him from the baseline.
"Serving like this, the serve creates an impact on the rest of the game," Nadal said. "When you serve with no confidence, you are just focusing on try to serve, not think about how you want to play the ball."
"I was tired of making unforced errors" - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal went on to talk about the lack of accuracy on his first serves, suggesting that he didn't do himself any favors by getting so few of them in. Nadal had a first-serve percentage of 48% in the opening set, where he was broken as many as three times.
Andrey Rublev ended up taking that set 6-2, leaving the Spaniard with a lot of regrets.
"You just think about what you have to do with the serve to put the ball in," Nadal said. "Then you have problems continue and prepare the point the right way, no?"
"He played well, he deserves more than me," the 34-year-old added. "I fought, yeah. That’s the positive thing, I was there. But you can’t expect a win against a player like him losing my serve, I don’t know how many times, but too many. No chance like this. Six, seven times? It’s too much."
Rafael Nadal also touched upon his backhand during the encounter, which produced a series of uncharacteristic errors throughout.
"I think my backhand today was not enough well," Nadal said. "Lots of mistakes. I was not able to open the court with my backhand then."
The Spaniard was also seen admonishing himself during the match, and during the presser he claimed it was because he was 'tired' of missing so many shots.
"I had reasons to complain, but I didn't," Nadal said. "I only shouted after missing a backhand, I was tired of making unforced errors. It was a day to forget. Playing bad and doing it against a top player is a killer cocktail."