Rafael Nadal finds confidence despite Barcelona exit
Rafael Nadal shrugged off any suggestion of a French Open crisis of confidence, insisting he had enjoyed a "positive week" in Barcelona despite a dispiriting semi-final exit at a tournament he has won 11 times.
The Spanish great - who had never previously lost in the semis of the Barcelona Open - slumped to a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Dominic Thiem on Saturday, just a week after the 32-year-old had been dethroned as Monte Carlo Masters champion by Fabio Fognini, also at the semi-final stage.
With just four weeks to the start of Roland Garros, where he is the defending champion and an 11-time winner, Nadal believes he has finally come to life on his favourite surface.
He was also optimistic about his immediate future with Masters events in Madrid and Rome to come before the start of Roland Garros.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner said: "It's been a very positive week, I came from a lot of low moments in Monte Carlo.
"Today was the first day I felt really confident on the clay, it's my best match on the surface this year. My confidence is back thanks to this week.
"I really believe that I've made improvements. This is a good base to try and achieve my goals for the next couple of weeks."
Austrian third seed Thiem, who was defeated by Nadal in the 2018 French Open final, broke Nadal to take a 3-2 lead in the opener and held in the next game thanks to a stunning crosscourt forehand winner before seeing out the set.
He broke Nadal again and was serving for the match, but Nadal dug deep to earn three break-points only to lose each one, Thiem levelling the game with an ace after a marginal call from the umpire.
He sealed his fourth career victory over Nadal in 12 matches with a softly struck backhand, ending the Spaniard's chances of a fourth straight Barcelona Open title.
The win also made him the only other person apart from Novak Djokovic to beat Nadal on clay at least four times.
Thiem, who insisted that he was simply luckier to have defeated Nadal, went on to beat Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-0 in last night's final. - REUTERS