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Rafael Nadal describes stunning loss as one of his ‘worst matches on clay in 14 years’

For The Win logo For The Win 4/20/2019 Michelle R. Martinelli
a person hitting a ball with a racket: Agence France-Presse © Agence France-Presse Agence France-Presse

Rafael Nadal is the king of clay, but his years-long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters came to a screeching halt Saturday when Italy's 13-seed Fabio Fognini took down the tournament's defending champion, 6-4, 6-2, in the semifinals.

A No. 2 seed this year, Nadal was on an 18-match win streak in this clay-court tournament and had not lost since 2015 - a semifinal defeat to Novak Djokovic. He was also on a 25-set and win streak there, dating back to 2017 against Britain's Kyle Edmund, as the Associated Press noted. Previously, Nadal also had an incredible 46-match winning streak at Monte Carlo from 2005 to 2013.

But Fognini was dominant Saturday, taking an hour and 16 minutes to beat Nadal, ESPN reported. He had beaten Nadal twice before on clay courts.

The loss raises more questions about Nadal's health, as he's recently been unable to play because of a knee injury, which also bothered him last year.

Although Nadal still gave Fognini credit, he described his performance as "one of my worst matches on clay in 14 years" and said he "deserved to lose." More via the Agence France-Presse:

"The vision is clear," added 32-year-old Nadal who was playing his first tournament in a month after opting to rest his troublesome knees.

"I played a very bad match against a good player. In that situation, you have to lose.

"I had a bad feeling, it was a tough day. I'm coming from low moments in terms of injuries, and in terms of the mental side it has not been easy to accept all the things that have been going on during recent weeks.

"Everything was wrong. I always expect the best. But you have to be ready to accept the negative things and today was a negative day."

Nadal's loss should also be a little concerning because the French Open - also played on clay and a tournament Nadal has won 11 times, including the last two years - is a little more than a month away.

Fognini will face Serbia's Dusan Lajovic in the tournament final Sunday.

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