Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the Madrid Open quarter-finals stage 6-4 6-4 by German Alex Zverev, leaving his No. 2 rank to Daniil Medvedev in the ATP rankings.

Germany's Alexander Zverev (L) shakes hands with Spain's Rafael Nadal after their 2021 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles quarter-final match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 7, 2021.
Germany's Alexander Zverev (L) shakes hands with Spain's Rafael Nadal after their 2021 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles quarter-final match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 7, 2021. (AFP)

Rafael Nadal has admitted his 6-4, 6-4 loss to Germany's Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open quarter-finals was a "step back" but insisted there were plenty of positives as he plots his way to a 14th Roland Garros title.

Nadal’s quarter-final loss to Zverev at the Madrid Open on Friday came as an unexpected setback in a week in which the king of clay said he was feeling good about his game.

“Negative feelings because this was an important week for me,” Nadal said. “I had been progressing, but sometimes when you are going up the stairs you may take a step backward, and that’s what happened today.”

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Pandemic effects

Nadal lost to No. 6-ranked Zverev 6-4, 6-4 after comfortable wins against up-and-comers Carlos Alcaraz and Alexei Popyrin.

“The entire week I did things well, both in training and in the matches,” Nadal said. “Today again, but when it counted, in the decisive moments, I did everything wrong.”

Nadal has been trying to regain his best form after not playing much because of the coronavirus pandemic. He got off to a slow start on clay by his standards, being eliminated by Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo then won the Barcelona Open after dropping multiple sets through that week. At the start of the year at the Australian Open, he lost in the quarter-finals.

He will attempt to win a 10th Italian Open next week to complete his buildup for a 14th French Open trophy.

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'I played better than Zverev at times'

He said he was frustrated because he felt like he played better than Zverev at times but could not take advantage of his chances. He felt like he let the quarter-final slip away by making “too many unjustified mistakes.”

“It was a different match than the one against Rublev (in Monte Carlo), when the conditions favoured me. Here there was a sensation that I was not in control of things, so when you lose it feels like things are worse than they really are.”

Nadal said he doesn't enjoy the faster pace in Madrid, prompted by the high altitude in the Spanish capital, even though he's won the tournament five times.

Nadal still tried to look on the bright side.

“It was a week with many positive things. I did a lot of things well in training,” he said. “I leave Madrid with good sensations in general, but with a bad sensation of having played a match like today.”

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies