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May 11, 2018

Rafael Nadal

Madrid, Spain

D. THIEM/R. Nadal

7-5, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish, please.

Q. Today's match, he was very strong compared to last year. But he beat you in Rome. The positive is that you can rest. Are you sad? How do you get to Rome?

Well, of course, yes, I'm upset. I tried to come back. I tried to do it. I tried to do it a couple of times. But I haven't been good enough today. He was better than me today. That's the end of the story. Some days you don't play as good as you would like to play. Also when that happens it's because your opponent is doing really well. Just congratulate him, that's all.

Q. Yesterday you were saying that Dominic Thiem is the most difficult opponent you have because he was the next one. Currently do you think he's one of the opponents which is harder to play against?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, three weeks ago I beat him 6-0, 6-3. I don't know if that's a tough player or not. I don't think it's that way. I think it's just been a match that he was better than me, same as a few weeks ago I was better than him.

This week, of course, he has been the toughest opponent. There is no discussion about that. This is the reality. If he beats me three times in a row, maybe we can say he reads my game and can beat me. Today he was better than me, and that's all.

Q. It's true that he was better than you today. But the technical analysis of today's defeat, can it be that he played differently and today you haven't been able to take advantage of the angles? Is that the technical answer?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah. I think that today I haven't read the ball good enough to be able to handle the situation, to put him in places where he didn't feel comfortable to play. The fact also that the ball here flies a lot, and he puts a lot of topspin on the ball. I was not good enough with my forehand or my backhand to open to his forehand, then to find a space to the backhand.

When I was hitting my forehand to his backhand, he was good enough to rest and to send it back with a good ball. Of course, today my forehand was not good enough. I would say today whenever I tried to hit my backhand to his forehand, I was never in a good enough position to place the ball on the lines, to open the court. I wasn't putting myself in position. He always had position to move around and to play a good shot, to strike the ball in a comfortable position for hem.

From there on, it's difficult to harm a player like him because he's a very powerful player, he has a lot of strength, he strikes the ball very hard, very violently. When you receive that ball, it's very difficult to respond.

It's just will. If you don't strike the first balls good enough, it's very difficult to step into the game because his balls come really heavy. As I've said here, it's even heavier, because here I have the feeling it's not easy to respond to that ball. It's different to Monte-Carlo and Rome. He managed adapt better to the conditions here. What I've said before: we have to analyze the things today and to work for next week. That's all.

Now I come to a very good moment. Today was a match where I haven't played so well. It wasn't a good match, of course. In these two days I have to know why today's match was not good and try to improve. That's what I'm going to do, try to change some things.

Q. With this result, you lose the No. 1. What does this mean for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: You cannot be No. 1 five months without competing. Of course, this is the ATP ranking. We're not talking about something that you have maybe some more margin. I think from Shanghai till Monte-Carlo, I hadn't finished a single tournament. We're talking about a lot of months that I gave up.

If we were talking about the ranking of one year, if I played really good in one period of the year, which I've done, let's be clear, I have been playing really good recently. Last year I made it to the finals in every single tournament. This year till now I had only one or two tournaments that I had played. This is the reality of this year.

Five months without playing in a tournament means that I cannot be No. 1. I'm not even thinking about that. I'm not going to keep the No. 1 today. At the end of the year we will see what happens.

But I think from January till Monte-Carlo I played zero tournaments. These are three months or more given away. This is a lot of months given away to the other players.

Having said this, I think I placed myself in a good position more or less. I am 3 in the race of the year, which is the most important thing. I still have two good weeks on clay, and then I'll keep on moving forward. This is the reality.

Talking about No. 1, of course I prefer to be No. 1 than 2, and No. 3 than 5. I have said this a million times. I lost the No. 1 before, but what makes me happy is I feel fit, can compete with possibilities every single week. This is my final goal: to be happy. That's what I'm working on.

Q. Could it be that today Thiem surprised you a little bit with how physical he was, how defensive he was? What surprised you of Dominic Thiem's game? I didn't understand very well what you were saying about Rome, but it may be that you play another quarterfinal against him. Are you going to face it differently?
RAFAEL NADAL: Hopefully. Surprised? No. I'm not surprised. At the end I know against who I'm playing. I know the potential that these players have. A player like Dominic has a lot of potential. Whenever he plays really well, it's very difficult to stop him. If he plays well, I just need to stop him. That was not the case today. He played well and I didn't play well. When those things happen, he has to win. That's the reality. We're not playing an easy game. We're not playing a game where the differences are big or massive. The differences are very small.

In these kind of games, when two players which are the top players of the world, what's logical is the one who plays better wins, and he was the one who played better today.

Q. Today I saw you with some strange errors, a couple of the double-faults. Why did this happen? Were you nervous? Were you missing some confidence?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, you've said it. What you have just said. This is the reality. When you're good, you're not playing good. This happens. You commit some errors that you don't commit when you're playing well. It's always the same. When you're playing good and things are just working out, some balls that are easy, they seem even easier. Balls that are difficult seem normal. The normal ones seem really easy. When you're not playing well, you see everything much more complicated. Today was one of those days.

I haven't played well, so all the balls seemed to be more difficult. I didn't read the timing of the ball properly to be able to place myself on the court and to dominate the point with confidence in the beginning knowing I wasn't going to lose the point. This didn't happen today. With the result, we all know the result is that I've lost 7-5, 6-3. That's all.

We don't have to think more about it, just to know what things I know I've done incorrectly, what the other opponent has done better. The only thing that I can do is, as always, recognize the merit of my opponent. He was superior. I have to work so that next week I'm ready to compete on the first day. I'll try to do the best tournament as possible.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English, please.

Q. Outside of Dominic playing very well, do you see any special reason why you couldn't find your best game today? Just an off day or was it something that really was bothering you?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am playing against one of the best players of the world. He played well. We played in special conditions. The ball flies more here. It was a little bit more difficult to have the control of the ball. I was not under control of the point almost never during the match.

My real feeling was when I was hitting the ball with my forehand or even with my backhand, I was not on comfort, on confidence to change directions with the feeling that I don't going to have mistakes, no? That was my feeling.

When these things happens, especially when these things happens playing against one of the best players, the normal thing is that at the end you lose the match. At the same time analyzing all of these things, when I recovered, I was 5-All, I did mistake with the smash. Yeah, I was not lucky with one return that he put the ball on the line without touching the ball very well.

Is always the same. When the opponent is playing with more determination, things goes that way. That's why is the moment to say congratulations to Dominic. I'm happy for him. He's a great guy. He deserve it. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the tournament.

Q. You've had a great clay court season so far, winning Monte-Carlo, Barcelona. Obviously had an off day today. What will you do differently, if anything, as you prepare for the Rome tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: Being honest, I am not, as I said a lot of times: when I am winning, I am not super happy, and when I'm losing, I'm not super sad. Is not a drama that I lost the match, no? I don't have to do a lot of things different.

I won 50 straight sets on this surface. Today I lost the match. It was not my day. But that's part of this sport. That's part of the sport in general. So I can't go back to the hotel and think that I have to do a lot of things different to prepare the next events because will not be something that will be very smart for my part.

I just have to analyze what's going on and just going to try to play with more determination, more aggressive. But I can't think that I am not doing the things enough well. I can't think I have to do a lot of things different because will be something that will not be right after all the results that I having here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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