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Nadal hardens himself after a surprise exit from the US Open

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Rafael Nadal said he would not look for excuses for his shock fourth-round defeat by American Frances Tiafoe at the US Open on Monday, despite a severe abdominal injury that hampered his preparations for the year’s final Grand Slam.

Tiafoe has not reached the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam since the 2019 Australian Open, but he had no problem ending Nadal’s run towards his 23rd title to cement his record in this major category, as the Spaniard struggled to serve and return.

Nadal, 36, withdrew from Wimbledon with a serious abdominal injury this year and barely played matches before reaching Flushing Meadows, but told reporters that Tiafoe, 24, was simply the best.

“We can lament or complain about a lot of things, but I don’t think that will change anything,” he said.

“We cannot look for excuses, I need to criticize myself and this is the only way to improve and to find solutions,” he added.

Nadal won the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year and reached the Indian Wells final, but his impressive career was disrupted when he told reporters he would not be able to play a Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

The loss in straight sets to Borna Coric in the opening match in Cincinnati did not give signs of optimism after he described his injury as “serious.”

In his first hardcourt appearance at the New York Grand Prix in three years, he lost the first set in the first round to wildcard Rinky Hellicata, an indication that he was not fully prepared.

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“I was training well the previous week, honestly, but with the start of the competitions, my level decreased.

“For some reason, I don’t know, maybe it’s a mental issue with a lot of things that have happened in the past months, but it doesn’t matter… in the end what happened was that I got out of the fourth round at the US Open in front of a better player than me and that’s why I’m flying home.”