The Spaniard says he's improving week to week on the clay.

Rafael Nadal isn’t going to let his recent difficulties on clay dampen his enthusiasm for the biggest events of the season. The Spaniard, who fell in semi-final action at Monte-Carlo to Fabio Fognini and then at Barcelona to Dominic Thiem, says he is gaining confidence despite what many perceive to be surprising losses.

"After this week, my confidence is back," Nadal said, according to "I really believe that I made very good improvements to create a good base to try to achieve my goals during the next couple of weeks.”

Nadal believes he has made significant strides since Monte-Carlo, where he gave a particularly scathing assessment of his form in his straight-sets loss to Fabio Fognini in the semi-finals.

Tennis Express

With a week off before next week’s Madrid Masters, expect Nadal to be in a more ferocious mindset as he begins the final leg of his Roland Garros preparation.

The hunger will certainly be there.

Nadal has not entered the month of May without a title on the year since 2004, and he has recently given up ground to two of his biggest clay rivals. Fognini became just the fourth player to own three or more wins over Nadal on clay while Thiem became just the second player to reach four wins against Nadal on clay.

But Nadal is not concerned about the losses or the media’s reaction to his slow start on clay. He’s focused on maintaining his fitness and making steady improvements to his form as April turns to May. The Spaniard has always been the master of improving with each passing week during the clay season, and if he continues to do so he should be on track for a Roland Garros title defense.

"It was a big difference [to Monte Carlo],” Nadal said of his loss to Thiem. “Against Fognini I played the worst match probably in 14 years on clay. Today I played a good match of tennis.”

Nadal was satisfied with the way he performed against Thiem on Saturday in Barcelona, despite the fact that he struggled on serve and won just 43 percent of his second-serve points.

“The serve [was] an important part of the match this afternoon,” Nadal said. “I didn't serve well at all, especially the second serve. So when I started to miss the second serve, I really lost a little bit of the confidence on trying to go for a good first serve, because I was without confidence on the second, so that affects the first."

He added: "I really felt competitive for the first time in a way that I want to feel myself. And as I said before, I am happy and I am confident that I made a big improvement this week."