Nadal felled by Fognini in Barcelona third round
By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal's bid to get back to top form before the French Open suffered a setback when he crashed to a 6-4 7-6(6) defeat to 13th-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini in the third round of the Barcelona Open on Thursday.
Nadal, the world number four and second seed, produced an erratic performance on the clay in the Catalan capital and the big-hitting Fognini punished the Spaniard's errors to scupper Nadal's bid for a ninth Barcelona title.
Backed by a fiercely partisan crowd, Nadal saved three match points in the tiebreak before sending a forehand long on the fourth to hand Fognini victory.
After his 2014 season was wrecked by illness and injury, Nadal is looking to rediscover his dominance on the red dust before he makes a bid for a record-extending 10th French Open crown starting at the end of next month.
The Majorca native lost to world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of last week's Monte Carlo Masters and many are tipping the Serb to end his great rival's stranglehold at Roland Garros.
Despite his reverse to Djokovic in the principality, Nadal said he had played his best tennis of the year but admitted Thursday's reverse was "a blow" and that his misfiring forehand had been the key.
"I played badly and I couldn't play how I wanted," Nadal told a news conference.
"There is no other alternative, accept it or die, and I accept it because I want to give myself a chance in the future," added the 28-year-old, who is next due to play at the Madrid Masters at the start of May. Continued...