(August 5, 2021) In just his second match back since losing in the semifinals of Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal lost to No. 50 Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night. Nadal was making his debut at the tournament in the nation’s capital.
Although it was bad news for the 35-year-old Nadal in losing, he was happy that his foot was not hurting him as it did on Wednesday night against Jack Sock.
“The most positive thing is my foot was better today than yesterday, so that’s the best news possible. I played against a player that played well,” said Nadal.
“For the moment, I think I played better than yesterday, but, yeah, I mean, in the third when I had opportunities, the true is his serve was huge and I played this last game really bad.
“So that’s the sport. You can’t have mistakes in the key moments, and in the key moments I think in the last game, yeah, I was a little bit more nervous. My serve was not working the proper way.
“And that’s it. Yes, well done for him. Is a great victory for him. I wish him all the very best.”
The 24-year-old South African hit 16 aces against the 20-time major champ. “His serve,” Nadal said, “was huge.”
“I played this last game really bad,” said Nadal. “My serve was not working the proper way.”
“To be honest, tennis-wise, I did a lot of good things,” Harris said to media after the match. “I think the best thing was to stay in the moment, keep my composure.”
“For sure, from a tennis aspect, I did a lot of good things. It was a good, quality match, I think. Not easy for me out there. It was pretty physical, bull all in all, I’m just super happy with how everything turned out.”
“Today was really special,” Harris told media. “I think, you know, I have had some big wins, and this year I have beat some Grand Slam champions, but to beat a 20-time Grand Slam champion, and especially in front of a full crowd and with such an amazing atmosphere, it was definitely something very special.”
Harris will be playing Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“Seems like it’s not getting much easier,” Harris said. “Kei is also tremendously tough opponent. I had a really difficult match with him in Dubai. Luckily I got the win there, but I do know he’s playing really well.
“I got to see a lot of his match today. It’s going to be a very tough battle and I think a very different game style than I faced today. It’s going to be a new challenge and I look forward to it.”
Harris talked about the key to his match against the 2014 U.S. Open finalist: “I think Kei is a much more aggressive returner. He’s going to try and play much more on the baseline, play more aggressive also like try and get inside the court a lot, which he did in the past against me. I think it’s just to keep confidence on the serve and try to put as much pressure as well on his serve.
“But, you know, I think regardless of how we play, I think it’s going to be a difficult match tomorrow. But, you know, hopefully I can do similar good things that I did today.”
“It’s time to rest and I know tomorrow is going to be another rough battle, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The loss for Nadal drops his ranking down to No. 4 in the world.
Nadal was joined on the sidelines by other seeded players including second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who lost to 20-year-old American Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-4.
The quarterfinals are set: It will be Harris vs. Nishikori of Japan, Mackie McDonald vs. Denis Kudla in a battle of Americans, No. 5 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy vs. Steve Johnson of the U.S., and No. 11 John Millman of Australia vs. Jenson Brooksby of the U.S.
More to follow…