Rafael Nadal has hit back at the criticism and claimed he will keep fighting at the ATP Finals in Turin after a shock first-round defeat that marked a 13-year-low for the Spaniard.
Nadal entered the ATP Finals in Turin off the back of a first round loss at the Paris Masters last week and was looking to turn around his sluggish form.
Many were expecting an improved display from the Spaniard having been back on the tour for a couple of weeks after the birth of his first child.
But after a close first set against Taylor Fritz, it all went wrong for the 36-year-old.
The American, who defeated Nadal at Indian Wells, ran away with the second set with Nadal looking helpless in baseline rallies.
He also served three double faults as Fritz comfortably claimed his first Green Group win 7-6, 6-1 in Turin.
Nadal came under criticism after the match with many feeling we were seeing the very end of the icon's career.
The Spaniard hadn't lost three matches in a row since 2009 and in his current condition he could be facing a tough time in the Green Group.
However, in typical Nadal fashion, the Spaniard said he would: "keep trying, without a doubt."
"I need more matches to play at this kind of level, even if I am practising well, much better than how I am competing, without a doubt. That's normal," Nadal said after the match.
"(It) is not the ideal tournament and probably part of the season to come back after a couple of months without being on the tour because you don't have time to get confidence.
“In this tournament I still have a chance. But of course I’m not happy about the beginning. That first match was very important for me.”
First 3-match losing streak for @RafaelNadal since 2009.
— Brett Haber (@BrettHaber) November 13, 2022
Rafael Nadal loses to Fritz in his 1st match at the ATP Finals. He’s rusty, but will improve with each match
1. Serve speed is up to around 120 mph again.
2. Movement doesn’t look hampered.
3. Fighting spirit is still there & as prominent as ever.#VamosRafa pic.twitter.com/NDXBONpFE3
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) November 13, 2022
Taylor Fritz grabs famous ATP Finals win
Nadal grabbed a 6-5 lead in the opening set when he held to love for a fifth time but then lost the opening three points of the tiebreaker and could not find his way back.
After neither player dropped serve in the first set, Fritz broke early in the second for a 3-1 lead and again to pull ahead 5-1 before closing out the match on his next service game when Nadal sent a forehand long.
"Once I got through that first set I just wanted to do the same thing I was doing for the second set: take care of my serve and just look to capitalise on the break points when I got them," Fritz said.
For Fritz, the victory marked his first over a top-three opponent in 12 attempts and improved him to 2-2 in head-to-head meetings with Nadal having beaten him at Indian Wells in March.
The other match in the group saw Casper Ruud down the in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
Auger-Aliassime has been in sublime form at the end of the season, winning three tournaments in a row before a semi-final run at the Paris Masters, but was not at his best while falling to the World No.3.
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