U.S. Open 2015: Rafael Nadal exits Flushing Meadows after humbling defeat

Story highlights

Rafael Nadal crashes out of the U.S. Open in the third round

Spaniard loses five-set thriller to Italian Fabio Fognini at Flushing Meadows

CNN  — 

It just hasn’t been Rafael Nadal’s year.

The Spaniard crashed out of the U.S. Open in the third round after losing a five-set thriller to Italian Fabio Fognini at Flushing Meadows, ensuring Nadal will be without a grand slam win in a calendar year for the first time since 2004.

“The only thing this means is I played worse than the last 10 years,” the 14-time grand slam winner told reporters. “That’s the real thing. By the way, for me it was amazing to win 10 years in a row a grand slam.

“You can imagine how difficult it is to make that happen. I have to accept that it was not my year and keep fighting till the end of the season to finish in a positive way.”

Remarkably Fognini came from two sets down to win 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 as double U.S.Open winner Nadal lost in a grand slam for the first time having been two sets up.

“I can’t describe how happy I am,” said the 28-year-old Fognini who will play Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in round four. “It was very tough. To do it against Rafa, two sets down – it was an incredible match,” added the Italian, who had lost his last seven matches on hard courts coming into the U.S. Open.

World No. 8 Nadal went out of the Australian Open quarterfinals after losing to Czech Tomas Berdych, then was knocked out of the French Open quarterfinals by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, before being dumped out of Wimbledon in the second round by American qualifier Dustin Brown.

Last month two of the game’s most successful coaches, Larry Stefanki and Nick Bollettieri, told CNN that Nadal needs a new coach if he is to rebound and add to his haul of grand slam titles.

They echo the thoughts of John McEnroe, although both Stefanki and Bollettieri – unlike the outspoken seven-time grand slam winner – wouldn’t dispose of the services of Nadal’s main coach, his Uncle Toni.

The 29-year-old Nadal is also helped part time by Francisco Roig.

“I just think Rafa needs to get a little bit of a different view point,” Stefanki told CNN when asked about Nadal, who sports a 2-6 record versus top-10 foes in 2015.

“Not getting rid of Uncle Toni, either. I don’t think that’s a good thing. He should probably stay around.”

Opponents lose ‘fear factor’

Such collaborative coaching arrangements have led to success for, among others, top-ranked Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori.

“I would bring in somebody that knows the type of game that Nadal has to play now to get back,” said Bollettieri told CNN.

“Maybe bring in somebody that hears all the gossip on the street, that knows what’s going on. But I certainly wouldn’t change the foundation.”

Bollettieri added that Nadal’s opponents have lost the “fear factor.”

“What’s amazing is that we the fans and coaches can’t believe that Rafa is getting beat,” said Bollettieri. “It’s hard to understand.

“The biggest difference is that before when there was a long rally, you favored Nadal. That’s not so today.

“The hard-court circuit is going to tell a lot. This summer before the U.S. Open, you’re going to get a strong message of whether he can come back or not. Right now he’s not the same Rafa. I’m hoping he can come back. He’s a great credit to the game.”