Rafa Nadal's shock loss to Borna Coric at the Cincinnati Masters has cost the 22-time grand slam champion a shot at becoming the World No.1 again.
Nadal suffered a big blow to his US Open preparations on Wednesday after being beaten in his first match since pulling out of his Wimbledon semi-finals against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
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The Spanish champion went down 7-6 (11- 9) 4-6 6-3 to Coric at the Cincinnati Masters in a huge boilover that left fans stunned.
Not only has the loss robbed Nadal of much-needed match practice in the lead-up to the US Open (starting on August 29), it has also cost him the World No.1 ranking.
After Daniil Medvedev lost in the second round of the Canadian Open to Kyrgios last week, Nadal had the chance to take his No.1 ranking with a strong showing in Cincinnati.
If he could have managed to win the title in Cincinnati, Nadal would have leapfrogged Alexander Zverev and Medvedev and gone to World No.1.
Instead, Medvedev will retain the top spot heading into the US Open - with World No.2 Zverev still sidelined by the injury he suffered at the French Open against Nadal.
However Medvedev will be defending 2000 rankings points at the New York grand slam after winning the title in 2021.
Anything less than another title will see the Russian lose rankings points and leave the door open for Nadal.
Nadal had been hoping to get as many matches under his belt as possible after returning from his abdominal injury, but is now well short of competitive action before beginning his bid for a fifth US Open title and first since 2019.
"I need to improve," Nadal said afterwards.
"I need to practise. I need to return better. I need days, and that's the truth. It's obvious that I was not ready enough to win the match today.
"(It) has been a difficult injury to manage. The last month and a half haven't been easy.
"I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd gives me in New York.
"I know it's a very special place for me... unforgettable moments there, and I'm going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that."
Rafa Nadal 💬, about the opportunity of becoming No. 1 again: "I never expected could happen again. If that happens, it will be amazing. The main thing is to stay healthy. I will not play more than what I believe will work well for my body to achieve this goal."
(💬 via @ATP)
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) August 17, 2022
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Speaking about his chances at the US Open, Nadal added: "In terms of New York, it's a grand slam, a different kind of tournament.
"I was only able to play two sets before this match in the last 40 days.
"I know that to gain condition. I will have to (be) on the tour practicing with the guys (other players)."
Nadal won the US Open in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019.
If he can triumph again in 2022 he would become the first man ever to win 23 grand slam titles and extend his lead even further over Novak Djokovic (21) and Roger Federer (20).
Djokovic is highly unlikely to play the US Open due to his vaccination status, while Federer still hasn't returned after undergoing a third knee surgery last year.
On Thursday, Medvedev beat Denis Shapovalov 7-5 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals in Cincinnati ahead of his US Open title defence.
Medvedev dropped just four first-serve points in the second set and never faced a break as Shapovalov saved five break points before losing his serve in the penultimate game.
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