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'I cannot be sad', Rafael Nadal staying positive despite crushing Australian Open defeat to Novak Djokovic

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 27 Jan 2019
  • Rafael Nadal chose to highlight the positives of his Australian Open campaign despite heavy loss to Novak Djokovic
  • Nadal was beaten 6-3 6-2 6-3 in just over two hours in Sunday's final
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

World No. 2, Rafael Nadal is taking plenty of positives away from his Australian Open campaign, despite his crushing defeat to Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

Nadal was bidding to win the Australian Open for a second time, which would have made him just the third man in history to win all four Grand Slams on multiple occasions, but the great Spaniard was denied by a spectacular performance from Djokovic, who ran out a 6-3 6-2 6-3 victor.

Nadal has now lost four Australian Open finals- only Andy Murray, with five runner-up finishes. has suffered more finals defeat than the Spaniard.

Nadal also missed the chance to pick up his 18th major title, which would have put him just two behind Roger Federer on the all-time list. Instead, Djokovic claimed his 15th major title to overtake Pete Sampras into third, leaving him just two off Nadal.

Nadal had gone into the final in excellent form, having moved through the draw without dropping a set, and playing a seemingly more attacking brand of tennis, helped by his modified service motion, but he was a distant second best on Sunday night as Djokovic put on a masterclass in returning and ground-stroking to dismiss the Spaniard in straight sets.

Nadal was understandably disappointed by the result, but the Spaniard refused to be too downcast, pointing out the positives in a fine Australian Open campaign, and giving credit to his outstanding opponent.

“I can't be sad. Will be not fair to be sad”, Nadal said. “I played against a player that today was better than me. That's no doubt about that”.   
“You go on court, you can win, you can lose when you face players that are playing that well. You accept that somebody is able to play that well”.  
“He was better than me tonight. That's the sport. We can talk a lot, but when the player did almost everything better than you, you can't complain much. The only thing that you can say is congrats to the opponent, well done”. 

Nadal was restricted to 21 winners by the stifling defence of Djokovic, while he committed 28 unforced errors as he over-pressed when he had the opportunity to get on the front-foot. The Spaniard appeared nervous at times, especially at the start when he conceded the first six points, and sprayed a number of unforced errors, but he was adamant that nerves did not play a part in his poor start. Nadal instead gave all the credit to Djokovic, praising this opponent’s ability to force him into defensive positions even when the Serbian appeared to be on the back-foot.

“I make more mistakes because he pushed more. That's all. Is not about being more nervous. I have been normal nerves, like final of Grand Slam”. 
“What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position. That's not nerves”. “I don't like to say he played unbelievable well because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things very difficult unbelievable well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick. I felt that good shots came back with offensive position for me, after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position”.

The world No. 2 had progressed to the final without dropping the set, and had had a day's extra rest having played his semi-final 24 hours earlier, but he felt his relatively easier route to the championship match might have been counter-productive in the final. Nadal had spent most of the tournament on the attack, putting his opponents under pressure, without having to do much defending, but when the time came to defend a lot more, he could not find the required level and intensity to stick with the Serbian.

“I think I was playing great during the both weeks in offensive positions”, he said. “In defensive positions, I practiced what I practiced. I practiced well, very well I think, but because of the things that happened to me in terms of surgery, then what happened in Abu Dhabi, I was not able to work that much the defensive game. I worked a lot on the offensive game, but not that much on the defensive game”. 
“To play against a player like him, playing the way he played tonight, I needed that defensive game to finally have the chance to be offensive, no? When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%. But probably will be a little bit more fight”.

Nadal had arrived at the Australian Open under a serious injury cloud, having not played since retiring from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro with a knee injury in September, and pulling out of his scheduled season-opener in Brisbane due to a thigh complaint, but the 17-time major winner surprised many, including himself with how well he played in Melbourne, and was left feeling satisfied with his effort, and confident that he can achieve a higher level in the coming months if he stays healthy and plays more matches.

“For my side being very happy, big personal satisfaction about the two weeks, you can't imagine -- is nice and easy now playing the final here, looks always that. But I have been going through very tough moments. After the US Open, I didn't had the chance to play for three weeks or four weeks for the knee. Then I came back, and two days or three days before Bercy, I felt the feet, that something going wrong. I went to Bercy, had a strain in the abdominal. Then I came back, had to do surgery to the feet because a small portion of the ankle was gone. Is all the time under a tough process of things”. 
“Then when you want to start the season, what happened for me in the thigh at the beginning of the season, is a lot of issues. Even if I always say that I am a positive, believing that the things can go better all the time, that's tough. That's mentally tough. It's painful that you can't do the things that you need to do to be 100% fit”.
“I believe that I can be ready in a couple of months if I am able to keep practicing and to keep competing at that level”.

Nadal confirmed that he is scheduled to play Acapulco and Indian Wells, and will assess the rest of the season after wards.

“…my next step is Acapulco. That's my goal. Is a tournament that I like to play. I had some success there. I am excited to come back to Acapulco. I have Acapulco, I have Indian Wells, and that's my calendar today”.

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"I cannot be sad", Rafael Nadal staying positive despite crushing Australian Open defeat to Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal chose to highlight the positives of his Australian Open campaign despite his crushing loss to Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final

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