Nadal only loses on clay, he does not get beat


Admitting defeat would show weakness. If Nadal can believe that he wasn't really beaten and that he didn't play well gives him justification on his match outcome. I knew people who would "retire" or "tank" a match while playing tournaments and in their eyes they didn't lose. "retired" or "I didn't play my best" sounds better than "I lost".

Being in denial is false confidence to trick you're mind into thinking you are ok when in reality you're not.
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Of course you have to give credit to the opponent if they actually played well (in this case yes, Stefanos played some brilliant tennis), but you're pretty much spot on. When the big three lose majority of the time, the level they show is usually average at best, supbar often... Sounds like excuses, but it is what it is. They are rarely outplayed anymore...