The Spaniard, who won the title in 2008 and 2010 but who has slipped down to No10 in the rankings after struggles with form and confidence, was beaten 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round by Dustin Brown, a German qualifier ranked 102.
Looking more down than ever as he tried to sum up the effect of another early defeat – his fourth consecutive loss before the quarter-finals here – Nadal said the only thing he can do is keep trying to get back to the form that took him to 14 grand slam titles. “I lost,” he said. “Sad today for that, obviously. But end of the day, that’s sport. Good moments, bad moments. Obviously today is a bad moment for me.
“I just need to accept these kind of things that can happen. I did all my career. Keep going. It’s not the end. It is a sad moment for me but life continues. My career, too. I have to keep going and working more than ever to try to change that dynamic.”
When he lost in round two in 2012 and in the first round in 2013, Nadal had been struggling physically, with his knees a real problem. Last year, when he lost in round four to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, he was blown off the court and on Thursday, Brown outgunned him with power and finesse.
“It is obvious that 2012 and 2013 were not an issue,” he said. “I was not competitive. Too much problems on my knees. Last year and this year, no problems at all with my knees. I was ready to compete. I lost. I don’t know if I will be back to the level of 2008 or 2010 or 2007 or 2006 or ’11.
“My motivation is try to be back to that level. I am going to keep working on that. But if I don’t make that happen, actually I played five times here the last day, had the trophy back home two times, so it is not bad. At the end of the day, today I lost. Don’t forget I played five finals here. I don’t know how many players did that.”
Nadal, who lost his French Open title last month when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, rued a series of missed chances to beat Brown, who played well above his ranking and threw the Spaniard off his game with aggressive net play backed up by stunning shot-making and dozens of drop shots.
The Spaniard admitted he had simply made too many mistakes and left himself too much to do. “On this court especially, you meet players that don’t want to play from the baseline sometimes,” he said. “You cannot have mistakes against a player like him with that big serve, nothing to lose, serving first and second almost the same speed. Without having rhythm at all. I didn’t hit three balls in a row the same way. Then when you need to hit that ball, extra ball, you don’t have the confidence to do it. That’s what happened.”
Having gone two sets to one down, Nadal said the start of the fourth set had been the final straw. “First game of the fourth set was terrible for me,” he said. “A very disappointing moment. Two forehands that I should not make the mistake with. I did not play that forehand during the whole match. Arrive at that one, you lose confidence, you miss another.
“Then I fought at the end, but no chance at all on the return. That’s it.”
Nadal will return home to Mallorca, try to forget the experience and move on. “I had the right preparation, all the things I thought were going to be fine to play a good Wimbledon,” he said. “I am not a person that will be thinking about it for the next two weeks. But obviously today it’s tough.”
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