Rafael Nadal, who won his first grass-court title at Queen’s in 2008, went out in the first round on Tuesday after an absence of four years but said the defeat had not dented his self‑belief for Wimbledon, which starts on Monday week.
“It’s a loss, I think I didn’t play bad at all,” he said after losing to the world No79 Alexandr Dolgopolov, who powered 16 aces past the Spaniard to win 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 13 minutes in front of an audience that included José Mourinho and the former king of Spain, Juan Carlos.
Nadal, who lost to Novak Djokovic in the quarter‑finals of the French Open two weeks ago and has endured a difficult summer on his favoured clay surface, stormed back to form in Stuttgart last Sunday to win his first grass-court tournament in five years.
“I fought until the end,” he said. “He played well and he was a little bit better than me but I cannot say I am very sad the way that I played. [There is] nothing very negative, [after] winning a tournament last week.
“This week I lost an opportunity but my feeling, my thoughts, are no different today than yesterday. I am playing better than before and enjoying my tennis more on court than before. I will keep going, keep practising hard. I hope to be ready to play well at Wimbledon.”
He said the presence of Juan Carlos and Mourinho – both of whom he knows well – did not disturb his focus. “I have a great relationship with the king. I have a very good relationship with José, too. It is good to have the support of the crowd, but it’s not an inspiration, not an extra pressure. I play my game. I try to do my best in every single match of the year and not try to be better if there is somebody or not on the crowd.”
Nadal deflected a suggestion that Mourinho might have been in a position to give him advice. “He’s a football manager. He’s one of the best of the world. And I have my team. I will never give him advice on football and probably he will not be giving me advice on tennis.”
Having complained of nerves and self-doubt during four defeats on European clay before Roland Garros, Nadal does look rejuvenated. It was his misfortune to strike Dolgopolov on one of his best days. “He’s difficult on every surface and his serve today was great, huge. His second serve was so difficult to read, too, because sometimes he played with bigger slice, and sometimes he played with topspin. So it was not easy.” Dolgopolov plays Guillermo García López next.
Andy Murray survived two breaks of serve against the Taiwan qualifier Lu Yen-hsun to win 6-4, 7-5 and book a second-round match against Fernando Verdasco, who gave him such a tough time over five sets in the quarter-final at Wimbledon two years ago.
The French Open champion Stan Wawrinka beat Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 6-4 in 49 minutes and the defending Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov is also through, finishing off his overnight match against Sam Querrey in three sets.
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