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The end for Rafa?

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 06-09-2015 skysports.com

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Following Rafa Nadal's shock defeat to Fabio Fognini at the US Open, the Sky Sports tennis panel discuss whether he will ever reach the top of the game again. 

The Spaniard's miserable year continued as the 14-time major champion threw away a two-set lead to lose to Italy's Fognini in the Friday night match at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal outplayed Fognini for over an hour under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium but the Italian found a different gear as he came storming back to win 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

It means Nadal has only managed to reach two quarter-finals at Slams this year and ends the season without a major title for the first time since 2004.

The defeat ended eighth-seeded Nadal's streak of 10 years in a row with at least one Grand Slam singles title after the Spaniard lost in the quarters at the Australian and French Opens, while going down in the second round at Wimbledon.

Nadal was 151-0 in majors when winning the first two sets, but his perfect record ended when he could not stave off the comeback of inspired Fognini. The only previous such defeat in his career came in the 2005 Miami finals to Roger Federer.

And the panel, led by Novak Djokovic's coach Boris Becker, as well as Annabel Croft and Greg Rusedski, discussed his dramatic fall from grace and where he goes from here.

"I watched the first two sets and he was 3-1 up, a break in the third set, I fell asleep and figured it's straight sets for Rafa and that's it," said Becker.

"I turned on the television – I wasn't even bothering checking the result and all of a sudden I see a big upset and said 'what?' – Fognini won that fifth set. I couldn't believe it! Something is awfully off with Rafa and I don't know what it is."

Nadal was ousted in the second round at Wimbledon by an opponent ranked outside the top 100.

And Rusedski feels there are 'lapses of concentration' in his game: "Like Boris I watched those first two sets and thought 'this is over'. There is no way he can possibly lose this match – he's looking good again.

"Then all of a sudden he goes away and loses to Fognini, who barely has won a match on hard-courts – I think he was three for 18 in the last two years, so it was a big, big shock and a big setback for Rafa."

Nadal, who has been slowed in recent years by injuries, insisted he was healthy this season and retained his passion for the game.

Presenter Marcus Buckland asked Croft where the nine-time French Open champion goes from here following a devastating loss.

Croft said: "It was quite painful watching him walk down that corridor because that was a long walk to the locker room and just such a humiliating ending considering he was up two sets to love, but where it leaves him I really don't know.

"Everybody is talking about the relationship with his uncle [and coach Toni Nadal] being a little bit under pressure because they've been together since he was a young child and what does he do? Does he keep on persevering with it. I personally think he will do.

"For Rafa it's disappointing because it's yet another early loss in a Grand Slam of this great, great champion who was at the top of the game and it feels as if the men's game is moving away from him and he just can't seem to stop it."

Rusedski added: "When Rafa broke on the scene – at 19 years of age he won the French Open – his game is so mentally and physically demanding. When does he ever get a cheap point out there?

"There comes a stage when your brain cannot go on anymore. Maybe he just needs to refresh the mind, take a little time off and then get going.

"Let's not discount him just yet, but I think next year will define it after the French Open."

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