The world number two suffered an early exit at the hands of an unfancied opponent
Rafael Nadal endured a shock defeat against American rival Tommy Paul as the Spaniard exited the ATP Paris Masters 1000 in the second round on Wednesday.
Nadal lost 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 1-6 to Paul, who described the win as “probably the best” of his career.
Nadal was returning to action after becoming a father last month, and was playing his first match since being part of an emotional send-off for Roger Federer at the Laver Cup in London in September.
Seeded second in Paris, Nadal took the first set against Paul and secured a break in the second, before the American mounted a comeback.
Paul won a second set tiebreak and the world number 31 seized the initiative in the decider when Nadal dropped serve in the opening game.
Paul staved off some strong Nadal pressure in game four, before breaking his opponent’s serve twice more to earn a memorable win against the 22-time Grand Slam winner.
“It’s probably my best win,” Paul, 25, said afterwards. “I was obviously pumped for the matchup because it’s always interesting when you play one of the Big Three.
“I’ve only played him the second time, but the first time I was so nervous. It was weird, this time I wasn’t really nervous. I was pretty relaxed going onto the court and the day before. I think that played a role.”
Despite his glittering list of career achievements, the Paris Masters title has been elusive for Nadal. His best achievement at the tournament remains a 2007 defeat to Argentina’s David Nalbandian in the final.
The early exit for the 36-year-old this year means his hopes of capturing the world number one spot from countryman Carlos Alcaraz have also been dented.
Teenager Alcaraz is already into the round of 16 in Paris, where he will meet Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
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Meanwhile, Nadal will turn his attentions to the season-ending ATP Finals, which get underway in Turin on November 13 – even if he talked down his chances after his loss to Paul.
“It’s true that for the last five months I didn’t spend enough days on the tour,” said Nadal.
“I don’t even say competing on a tennis court. I say on the tour. Practicing with the guys. That’s what I need…
“For me (it’s) difficult to imagine now arriving in the world tour finals in enough good shape to win a tournament that I didn’t win during all my tennis career.”
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