Winning one game at the French Open against Rafael Nadal, let alone a whole match, takes a huge mental and physical toll on each and every one of his opponents according to Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori’s hopes of becoming only the third player to topple Nadal in the home of claycourt tennis did not last long on Tuesday. A 6-1 6-1 6-3 quarter-final defeat brought a swift end to his 2019 Roland Garros adventure.
Competitors in the men’s draw at a major need to win at least 18 games to beat an opponent, on Tuesday Nishikori came up spectacularly short after begging just five games against a man who took his Roland Garros win-loss record to 91-2.
“Even to get one game, it feels like very long, you know, to get one game,” said Japanese seventh seed, who now has a 0-5 record against the 11-time French Open champion on clay.
Nadal’s topspin makes it hard for his opponents to hit the ball as it often rebounds at shoulder height — a tough task for a player who stands at just 1.78 metres tall. Add in the fact Nishikori had survived back-to-back five-set thrillers to reach the quarters, and it made things very difficult for him.
“It’s not easy when you’re very tired but you have to stay with him. Especially Rafa, he gives me a very hard time on every point and it’s not easy,” Nishikori explained.
With Nadal leading 4-2 in the third set, Nishikori got a chance to recharge his mental batteries when the match was interrupted for an hour due to a fast-approaching thunderstorm.
The break, however, only delayed the inevitable.
“After coming back from the rain delay, it was only a few games, but I was feeling good. I think I tried to be a little more positive and enjoy the last couple of games,” said Nishikori.
“Maybe if I could have been a little more positive today, maybe I had little more chance,” he said.