Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer: Biggest Takeaways from Rafa's Loss in Paris

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent INovember 2, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 02:  Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on in his match against David Ferrer of Spain during day six of the BNP Paribas Masters at Palais Omnisports de Bercy on November 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal's run at the 2013 Paris Masters came to an end in shocking fashion at the hands of defending tournament champion and compatriot David Ferrer in Saturday's semifinals, per BBC Sport on Twitter:

The world No. 1 certainly missed a number of golden opportunities, but his opponent was the better player throughout and, in the end, was the more deserving competitor. 

Here, we'll look back on how it happened and take a closer look at what we learned from Rafa's deflating exit in the French capital. 

 

Ferrer Exercises His Demons, Wins 6-3, 7-5

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 02:  David Ferrer of Spain in action in his match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day six of the BNP Paribas Masters at Palais Omnisports de Bercy on November 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Despite entering Saturday's match with a 4-20 head-to-head ATP record versus Nadal, Ferrer jumped out in front early, picking up a quick break of serve to put Nadal behind, reducing his room for error. Rafa struck out on his only break point in the opening frame and found himself trailing by a set just moments later.

The second set featured more of the same, as Ferrer took advantage of another early break to pull ahead. 

But just when it looked like Rafa was ready to turn the tide and take over, breaking Ferrer in the 10th game of the second set to level the set at five games apiece, Nadal was broken in the very next game and went on to lose the set and the match, 7-5.

The defeat is only Nadal's sixth this season, but his third since the start of October.

 

Rafa Is Still Human on Hard Courts

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 12:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after losing the point during semi-final match against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina on day six of the Shanghai Rolex Masters at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center on October 12, 2013 in Shanghai, C
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Nadal's unbelievable run during the summer hard-court season and at the 2013 U.S. Open made us forget just how vulnerable he can be on hard surfaces. 

It's not that Rafa can't dominate on hard or grass surfaces, just that the faster-playing surfaces limit his key advantages. His heavy topspin isn't quite as demoralizing, and he doesn't have quite as much time to react defensively. 

After Saturday's loss to Ferrer, Nadal has now lost three of his past nine hard-court matches following a 26-0 start on the surface in 2013. The other two losses came against Novak Djokovic (Beijing) and Juan Martin del Potro (Shanghai).

There's no doubt that Rafa will always play his best tennis on his preferred surface. But in order to remain No. 1, he will have to get his hard-court swagger back in London next week and moving forward in 2014.

 

Nadal Needs the Offseason

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 05:  Rafael Nadal of Spain gestures following his win against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their men's semi-final match on day eight of the 2013 China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 5, 2013 in Beijing,
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal isn't the only player in men's tennis excited for the upcoming offseason, but he does need the time off more than others. 

Remember, Rafa played very little tennis in 2012 and none down the stretch after going out in the second round at Wimbledon and taking seven months off to recover from a knee injury. He's played nearly 80 competitive singles matches since returning in February, making deep runs in tournament after tournament and playing in three of the four Grand Slams, where you have to win three sets to advance.

Regardless of whether it's influenced his recent performances, Nadal's body has no doubt taken a beating over the past nine months.

His punishing style of play warrants added recovery time, and he'll get just that after the year-end championships next week in London. 

While it's close to impossible to maintain Rafa's 2013 U.S. Open form, his level has clearly dropped off since winning his last title. Fortunately, the offseason will offer Nadal a chance to rest up without missing a beat. 

 

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