Rafael Nadal has admitted he was "put in his place" by defeat to Andrey Rublev at the Monte-Carlo Masters last week – and was "surprised" by some of his mistakes in the match.
Playing his first tournament in nearly two months, Nadal eased through the first two rounds before losing to Rublev in three sets in the quarter-finals.
His performance in the first set was particularly uncharacteristic as he made only 48 per cent of his first serves and hit 13 unforced errors, including five double faults.
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Reflecting on the match ahead of this week's Barcelona Open, the world No 3 said: "If you are training well every day, when you play a match and do some things especially bad, it is surprising.
"I knew what happened immediately. Losses, even if they are not pleasant or positive, put everyone in their place. I analyse details from every match, and I know that I need to improve certain things.
"It was a strange match. You can lose against a great player like Rublev, but I did some things wrong and that surprised me. Other times, when you’re not feeling great, playing bad seems logical. That wasn’t the case in Monte-Carlo, but it happened.
"You need to understand what went wrong to avoid making the same mistakes again. After any loss, you have some days with doubts [in your mind]. The key is to recover and that’s what I have been doing. I have trained with the right attitude to have great feelings to compete here."
Nadal is bidding to bounce back at the Barcelona Open as he looks to win the tournament for a 12th time. He will then head to Madrid and Rome before his ultimate target for the next month at Roland-Garros, which starts on May 24.
"I want to win events before Roland-Garros because I like to win tournaments," he said.
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"Of course, it’s easier winning Roland-Garros with the confidence of winning events before, as I have done for much of my career. But the key is put myself into a position to be competitive in every single event.
“I have not competed a lot over the past year, but even if I felt ready for Monte-Carlo, matches like I had can happen. I will keep working hard for my match tomorrow in Barcelona, and every day for Madrid, Rome and Roland-Garros."
Nadal took a spell out following the Australian Open as he was recovering from a back problem. He showed no signs of injury in Monte Carlo and says he is “aiming to be positive” as he looks ahead to the rest of the clay season.
"I have not played much over the past few months, or the past year. Coming back to competition is always tough. Monte-Carlo was an important challenge, where I experienced a lot of positives during the tournament and practice sessions. I lost in the quarter-finals, not being able to compete at the level that I needed. Here I have another opportunity.
"I’ll go week by week. I have an important month that finishes with Roland-Garros. Each match and each week is important now. That’s how I see it. I am hoping that the negative stuff doesn’t take a toll and I am aiming to be positive every day to get to where I want to be."
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