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Rafael Nadal thanks the crowd for their support after bowing out in five sets in the US Open third round.

Nadal: "I Went Down Fighting"

Spaniard pleased with fighting spirit he showed

It may have been a heartbreaking loss for Rafael Nadal against Fabio Fognini under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night, but the Spaniard was pleased with one thing: he went down fighting on his own terms.

Too many times at the start of the year, Nadal would later lament in his press conference, he had beaten himself. But in the US Open third round, Fognini simply played better when it mattered.

“He played great,” said Nadal. “It was not a match that I lost, even if I had opportunities. It's a match that he won. I accept that. I’m not happy that he played better than me, but that's what happened. He played better than me. I didn't play bad at all. I played a normal match, but it wasn’t enough.”

It has been a mixed year for Nadal, who was looking to make a strong comeback in 2015 after a right wrist injury and then a bout of appendicitis curtailed his 2014, forcing him to miss the US Open and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

But while there were glimmers of top form from the left-hander in the first part of the season, there was also plenty of frustration for Nadal, including a shock loss to Dustin Brown in the Wimbledon second round. He had also fallen twice to Fognini, in the Rio de Janeiro semi-finals and in the Barcelona third round.

The difference between then and now, says the Spaniard, is that mentally, he is able to fight until the very end. The foundation is there and now it’s time to work on improving.

“I fought until the last point, with a good attitude,” said Nadal. “It was not enough to win today. But the good thing is that my mind allowed me to fight until the end as I have done during all my career. Sometimes this year I was not able to do that.

“The nerves, the anxiety that I had for a long time this season, meant I was not able to do it. I was not able to fight the way that I was fighting today. So it is an improvement for me. I take that like a positive thing and I know what I have to do. I am going to work on it.

“I think I have a good base now,” continued the Manacor native. “As I said, the good thing is I am not playing terrible matches like I did at the beginning of the season. When I am losing, I am losing because the opponents beat me, not because I lost the match, as I did a lot of times at the beginning of the season. That's an improvement for me.”

With quarter-finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros his best Grand Slam results this year, it marks the first time since 2004 that Nadal has not won a major title. But the 14-time Grand Slam champion is focusing now on a strong finish to the season. As he bids to make a late charge for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, the 29 year old will play in Beijing, Shanghai, Basel and Paris after leading Spain in Davis Cup action in two weeks’ time.

“For me, it was amazing to win a Grand Slam 10 years in a row. I think nobody did it. You can imagine how difficult it is to make that happen,” said Nadal, who won his first Grand Slam championship at Roland Garros in 2005.

“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 for me. Finish the season with the feeling that I improved something from the beginning of the season. That's something that I think I am doing. That is a start. I know what I have to do and I am going to work on it.”

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