Stefanos Tsitsipas Stops Rafael Nadal at Madrid Open
(May 11, 2019) The “King of Clay,” Rafael Nadal has lost a third straight clay-court semifinal during his favorite part of the season.
Young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, ranked No. 9 in the world defeated the 11-time French Open champion in the semifinals to reach the Madrid Open final for the first time 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. This was the Greek’s first-ever victory over Nadal, in fact it’s the first time he had ever taken a set off of Nadal in their head-to-head meetings.
The Spaniard also lost in the final four of Monte Carlo and Barcelona events.
The world No. 2 Nadal admitted that it wasn’t his best night. “I knew what I had to do, it was clear to me, but I just wasn’t capable of doing it. I didn’t have a good feeling to do the things I wanted to do and that’s it. We don’t have to dwell too much on it.”
“Tennis is about winning or losing. I have been able to win a lot for a lot of years on this surface. And this year, it seems that’s not the way and I am really close to it, but not managing to win. And then you just have to accept it and I have to accept it naturally. But to accept things does not mean to try to change things.
“But during all my life, I think I have taken the victories very naturally and with a lot of normality. With the losses I’ll do the same. It will be normal and I’m going to accept it naturally, in a natural way.
“And we can try and find as many excuses, or ifs, or possible, or whys, but at the end, it’s a matter of playing good tennis and if you play at a good level, I think I would have been able to win today’s match. I wasn’t able to play as good as I wanted to play. So, the consequence is that I was not able to win the match.
“What does this mean towards the future? We will see. I cannot tell you what it will mean in the future. Hopefully, I will accept this defeat properly and we will see what happens next week. I will face some matches there then until Paris. We will see what happens there and then we will see what happens week after week, day after day. I’ll try to work in a proper way, in a proper manner, with a proper attitude and then just believe in my possibilities and believe that things will work out and they will click.”
“Being honest, my feeling is was more about me tonight,” said Nadal. “He is young, he is improving and he has good talent. But I don’t see myself losing that match if I play the same level that I played in Barcelona 2017 final, or in Australia at the beginning of the season. That’s my feeling. I am not — that’s my truth, maybe it’s not the truth, but that is my feeling.
“And I feel that I needed to play longer and my feeling was I didn’t create enough damage when I was hitting the forehand. Of course he played well, he played with power and he’s aggressive. But my feeling’s in the intermediate balls, in the normal balls, I was not able to create him the feeling that he was going to suffer when I was hitting the forehand. That’s my feeling. And when an opponent is not feeling that, he plays more comfortably.”
“You cannot imagine the relief. It’s unbelievable,” said the 20-year-old Tsitsipas. “I don’t want to say this, but it almost felt like I lost hope at some point. Was three (losses to Nadal) in a row. I felt in Toronto when I played him I was very close and this match kind of gave me a bit of confidence I can do bet in the future, but then it was too much.
“Really happy that I overcame this and dealt with it mentally. Yeah. Beating him on clay makes it even more special.”
“Yes, it was one of the best matches I played all my life. Players like him who play with your mental game as well, they rely a lot on your mental ability and the way you are going to basically test you every single time. You always feel like you have to play the best shot, make the best approach, so players like Rafa are very difficult to face and I would record it as my best victory and the toughest match I had up to this day.”
Tsitsipas will be aiming for his third title for 2019 an to extend his 8-match winning streak. He’ll take on No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Djokovic beat no. 5 seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(2), 7-6(4). Thiem knocked out roger Federer on Friday.
“I have never faced him on clay so I don’t know what to expect,” said Tsitsipas. “I’m going to try to analyze some things to see the way he tries to, you know, play on clay.
“I have seen plenty of his matches, but I’m going to try to adapt to the way he is playing on clay as fast as I can because I’m pretty sure he is not easy on clay, as on hard. He actually is one of the guys that beat Rafa on clay. I’m going to have to be mentally focused and also psychologically ready for a fight. That will be very important in tomorrow’s match.”
“Very challenging because he was in form, he beat Roger yesterday, and won Indian Wells, Barcelona, playing great, beating Rafa on clay,” Djokovic said in regard to his win over the Austrian.
“So, I thought coming into the match I thought he was the favorite to win it. So that’s why it’s a great win for me. I’m really pleased that I won against Dominic who, as I said, is in top shape and in the semifinals of a big event like this, in conditions that are quite favorable to someone who plays his style with a lot of spin, as I said I’m very satisfied and, hopefully, I can have another great match tomorrow.”