Rafael Nadal suffered a rare loss on clay to countryman Fernando Verdasco on Thursday in the Madrid Open. The defeat doesn't change the fact that the world's No. 2 player should enter the French Open as the favorite, however.
Nadal has dominated the year's second major over the six years. He's won the tournament six times, and the only time he didn't was when he was knocked out in the fourth round in 2009. So a loss in a warm-up tournament isn't enough to make people overlook that terrific run.
One factor that's been discussed a lot in Madrid is the tournament's unorthodox blue clay. The players haven't enjoyed the change of pace, and it certainly seemed to have an negative impact on Nadal's play against Verdasco.
Whether it was the color of the clay or simply an off day for Nadal, it won't take much for the superstar to put the loss behind him and get back on track. He's never been a player who lets a loss lead to a slump.
That's mostly because of his relentless playing style. He plays every point like its his last. When a player puts in that much effort, slumps are usually far and few between because they don't have time to get caught up in the mental size of the sport.
His high work rate is actually a reason the loss might end up improving his chances of winning the French Open. It gives him some extra days of rest to make sure he's at full strength. The last thing he needs is a nagging injury to slow him down.
It's also important to remember Verdasco is a strong opponent, so it's not like Nadal lost to a low-level player that he should have easily knocked off. Even the top players are prone to a match where they simply can't figure things out, and Verdasco can force those types of frustrations when he's playing well.
All told, today's loss should just be chalked up to a bad day at the office for Nadal. He'll have no problem bouncing back over the next few weeks.
By the time he shows up in Paris, he will be prepared to make another deep run.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!