Rafael Nadal suffered a setback in his US Open preparations as he was beaten by South Africa's Lloyd Harris in the round of 16 at the Citi Open on Thursday. The Spaniard was playing his first tournament since losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at Roland Garros in June.
Nadal is still dealing with the foot injury that forced him to pull out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, and his movement looked compromised for most of the match against Harris. The South African, on his part, took full advantage of Nadal's struggles and claimed a shock 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory over the World No. 3.
Despite the disappointing loss, Nadal maintained a positive outlook. Speaking to the media, the Spaniard revealed that his foot was in better shape than in his previous match against Jack Sock.
"As I said before, the best news, the foot was better than yesterday. I was able to move a bit better, so that is very important, especially for me personally, no?" Nadal said to the press. "To keep enjoying the sport, no, and keep having energy, believing that important things are possible."
"I didn't have an easy two months, I had a lot of problems with my foot" - Rafael Nadal
During the press-conference, Nadal also disclosed that his recovery from the injury hasn't been easy. The Spaniard revealed the foot problem had prevented him from putting in the hard yards on the practice court.
"I need to keep improving. Is true, no? I honestly didn't have two months easy," Nadal said. "I had a lot of problems with my foot. I was not able to practice all the days that I really wanted, but I did as much as I could. And I tried hard here, no?"
Nadal also expressed his disappointment at exiting the 2021 Citi Open so early and vowed to bounce back from the setback.
"Sorry for the defeat, sorry for the tournament that it makes me feel amazing from the beginning. But that's the sport, no? I try very hard, as everybody knows. But was not enough," Nadal said.
"Only thing I can do is congratulate my opponent and just keep going. I gonna keep trying to practice the proper way and to give myself a chance to be better soon."
The Spaniard is now in a race against time to be fully fit ahead of the US Open, where he is a four-time champion.