Nadal's luck runs out on grass

Newly crowned French Open champion Rafael Nadal was brought down to earth in Germany on Wednesday losing his first match of the season on grass to lowly ranked German Alexander Waske.

Doubles specialist Waske won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, ending a 24-match unbeaten run from the 19-year-old Spaniard, although all of these were on clay.

Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta in four sets in the final of the French Open in Paris on Sunday, having eliminated top seed Roger Federer of Switzerland in the semifinals.

He has targeted Wimbledon, and the Halle tournament was to have served him as a valuable switchover to grass-court tennis.

Nadal said he felt exhausted, and the constant forays to the net of his 195th-ranked opponent did not allow him to get his game going.

“His approaches to the net stopped me from finding my rhythm,” said Nadal.

“By the end, I was exhausted both physically and psychologically and I had a thigh problem,” added Nadal, who is going to return to his home base of Mallorca and rest before Wimbledon.

His decision to do that effectively rules him out of gaining any more experience on grass at either Nottingham in England or Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands.

However, the Spaniard insisted that he had garnered enough from the match to warrant a rest.

“I learnt how to play on grass, so therefore it was a very good experience for me,” he said.

In other games, Russia’s Marat Safin dug himself out of deep trouble against old nemesis Fabrice Santoro of France to win 3-6, 7-6 (9/7) and 3-2 in the decider when his opponent abandoned due to a left thigh injury.

Safin will play Olivier Rochus in the next round after the Belgian put out Spanish eighth seed Feliciano Lopez in straight sets (7-6 (7/2), 6-3.—Sapa-AFP

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