Rafael Nadal has admitted that he does not always hate losing matches, in response to Stefanos Tsitsipas’ claim that the veteran Spaniard despises being on the receiving end of a defeat more than anybody else in tennis. Nadal overcame a strong performance from the Greek youngster to win the Barcelona Open for a record 12th time on Sunday afternoon, clinching the decisive third set after a spirited onslaught from his opponent.
Nadal, who has gained a formidable reputation as the king of clay over the course of his lengthy career, was widely expected to win at a canter despite the threat posed by Tsitsipas.
However, the 22-year-old dug deep to snatch the second set via a tiebreaker and pushed his more experienced counterpart all the way to the end.
He earned a championship point at 5-4 in the final set, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity which allowed Nadal to squirm his way out of trouble and steal the title.
After the conclusion of the match, Tsitsipas declared that Nadal’s determination was the deciding factor, as he simply cannot stand the disappointment of losing.
“He’s a real competitor on the court, he hates to lose,” said Tsitsipas.
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“He hates to lose more than anyone else. I haven’t seen anyone fight like this. He makes my life really difficult on court.”
Nadal promptly addressed his beaten opponent’s claims during his post-match press conference, revealing that although victory is always the motive, defeats are not always a cause for major concern.
“I don’t hate losing,” clarified Nadal. “But, I like winning and competing more than anything else.
“I like to make an effort to try to achieve the objectives and, if I do not achieve them, to leave with the peace of mind that I have tried.
“If you don’t fight in a final, when do you fight?”
Sunday’s result will provide a welcome boost for Nadal as he prepares to defend his French Open title at Roland Garros.
The tournament is set to get underway at the end of next month, with the Spaniard the hot favourite ahead of Tsitsipas, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
Nadal also revealed that he can see plenty of room for improvement in his own game, suggesting that he will be hard at work between now and the start of the French Open in order to stand the best chance of earning yet another Grand Slam triumph.
He is currently level with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time charts, with the pair boasting 20 major titles each, while fellow ‘Big Three’ member Djokovic stands two adrift with 18.
“I think I have been able to play better and better during the whole week [in] every single match, and today was a little bit better than yesterday,” added Nadal.
“I have room to keep improving. I was not perfect. I really believe that I can play better than what I am doing on clay.
“I really hope that the victory of today is going to help me to raise a little bit [my] level that I need to fight for the next couple of events that I am going to play.”