ROME • Rafael Nadal has warned he knows how to fix his errors before his French Open title defence after crashing in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters on Saturday, the final warm-up event before Roland Garros.
The nine-time Rome winner bowed out 6-2, 7-5 on a humid night in the Italian capital to Argentinian Diego Schwartzman, a player the second seed had beaten in all nine of their previous clashes.
It was Nadal’s last chance to tune up before his bid for a 13th French Open, and a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam to match Swiss great Roger Federer in just over a week.
“It’s a completely special and unpredictable year,” said the 34-year-old Spaniard. “I’ll probably go back home and then let’s see what’s going on. I did my job here.
“I fought until the end. But losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match. Something that I have to fix. I know how to do it.
“I’m going to keep working and keep practising with the right attitude, and try to give me a chance to be ready.
“I did a couple of things well and other things bad. And that’s it. At least I played three matches.”
The two-time defending champion was making his comeback after a long coronavirus-enforced break, having skipped the US Open.
Nadal beat compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, who reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, 6-1, 6-1 last week followed by a 6-1, 6-3 win over Serb Dusan Lajovic.
But Schwartzman put on a stunning performance to leave Nadal with no answer.
“After such a long time without competing, I played good two matches, and now today, I played a bad one against a good opponent,” added Nadal.
Schwartzman, with just three career titles to Nadal’s 85, said he had come close a few times to beating the world No. 2, before finally pulling off the upset.
“I think four or five times, I was close enough to feel like maybe if I play my best tennis, I’m going to have chances,” said the world No. 15. “Also, he was coming back to this tournament after seven months, more or less, eight months.
“I was thinking, today maybe I have the chance.”
In the men’s semi-finals yesterday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Norwegian Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3, while in the women’s semis, world No. 2 Simona Halep defeated Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to her third Rome final, putting the Romanian in touching distance of her first title here.