Startling Nadal admission after ‘ugly’ 13-year low

Rafael Nadal says he is prepared “to die” to reach the top again, after losing four straight matches for the first time in 13 years.

The Spaniard went down 6-3, 6-4 to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who became the first player born in the 2000s to beat each of the ‘big three’ – Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Auger-Aliassime is coached by Nadal’s uncle, Toni.

The loss, at the ATP Finals in Turin, comes a day after Nadal was beaten in straight sets by American Taylor Fritz.

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When added to his first round loss to Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters, and his fourth round exit at the US Open at the hands of Frances Tiafoe, Nadal has now lost four matches in a row for the third time in his career, and first since 2009.

The 36-year-old, who won the Australian Open and Roland-Garros at the start of the year, has had an injury-plagued second half of the season, after tearing an abdominal muscle ahead of his Wimbledon semi final against Nick Kyrgios.

He also recently became a father for the first time.

Despite the defeat, Nadal remained upbeat.

“[There are a] couple of positive things,” he said.

“I was able to play two tournaments in the past three weeks. That’s the positive thing, something that I was not able to do for a while.

“I don’t think I forgot how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally. I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be.

“I don’t know if I going to reach that level again. But what I don’t have any doubt is that I [am] going to die for it.”

His two major titles this year – his 21st and 22nd – moved him clear of his long time rivals Djokovic (21) and Federer (20). However, he’s still not satisfied.

“Winning two slams was not enough,” Nadal explained.

“Of course, was not enough because I was not able to play. I don’t know how many tournaments I played, 10, 11, maybe 12. Finished maybe nine, 10, in good conditions.

“It’s difficult comparing and fighting against the young guys that they are super good, and at the same time they are able to play as many tournaments as they want.”

Nadal started 2022 with a 20-match winning streak that included two ATP titles as well as the Australian Open, and it’s a run he’s aiming to repeat in 2023.

“What can I do to give myself positive chances to have a good season next year?” he asked.

“As always, be humble enough to accept that I have a challenge in front [of me]that the last six months have been very difficult for me, and I need to work more and I need to recover things that I lost because I was not able to practice the proper way, I was not able to compete the proper way.

“What I have to do now is come back, work hard, stay positive every single day, accept the challenge, accept that I am going to need to suffer a little bit more. If I will be ready to go through all this process, we are going to know in a couple of months if I have the determination going through that.”

Nadal’s loss means Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, at 19-years-old, becomes the youngest player to hold the men’s year-end No.1 ranking. He eclipses the mark set by Lleyton Hewitt, who was 20 in 2001.

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