MADRID: Rafael Nadal went down in frustration as the second seedlost his first match of the season on clay, with Spanish compatriotFernando Verdasco triumphing 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on Thursday in the thirdround of the Madrid Masters. "I never was in control of the match, I didn't know how to win apoint," said Nadal, who intimated he will not show up next yearunless the controversial blue clay surface he abhors is modified. Nadal's perfect record on the dirt for 2012 was marred as Madridnative Verdasco clawed out the opening set to stun multiple MonteCarlo and Barcelona champion Nadal, who, though he dug out thesecond set, succumbed in the decider. "Movement is very important for me and I couldn't move. "I couldn't hit ball the way I wanted. |
I lost because I deserved tolose." It was entirely another story for top seed Novak Djokovic, whoneeded two match points to beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (7-5),6-4 and Roger Federer, who rolled over Frenchman Richard Gasquet6-3, 6-2. With the exit of Nadal, Federer now has a chance to return to theATP number two ranking if he can win the title, according to ATPcalculations. "It was a surprising loss for Rafa," said the Swiss. "But Verdascois a quality player who should have maybe beaten Nadal in the past. "Down two breaks in a match on clay you don't expect a guy to comeback.
But the tournament goes on without Rafa. "I did well today, playing clean tennis. Maybe I had some unforcederrors when I went for shots, but the ball flies here. "I served well when I had to and played well on big points," hesaid before facing Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer, who beatcompatriot Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 7-6 (10/8).
Verdasco lost the second set as Nadal found his rhythm, but the15th-seeded challenger rallied from 1-4 down in the third to workhis upset miracle, winning his first match over the king of clayfrom 14 attempts. The final set was littered with seven breaks of serve, with anervous Nadal well off his game and expressing inward and outwardfrustration with the surface which has drawn his ire for weeks. Verdasco applied the pressure in the final game to break Nadal andadvance on his second match point, with the winner kissing thesurface in gratitude. "I couldn't close out the match at 5-2.
He played better than me,"said Nadal, by far the harshest critic of the experimental switchto blue clay. "The ATP and the tournament can do what they want, I tried my best,I've trained here since Thursday. I was as prepared as I could be. "I was not good enough to adapt my game to this court. If thingscontinue like this, it will be very sad.
"Next year, this will be one less event for my calendar." The devastated number two will need to regroup if he is to regainequilibrium, with next week's Masters 1000 in Rome restoring somenormality with a return to classic red clay and sea level altitude. Nadal last won Madrid in 2010 over Roger Federer and had dominatedVerdasco including the loss of just four games in a Barcelonasemi-final victory two weeks ago. The Mallorcan now stands 22-1 on clay since losing in the Romefinal last year to Novak Djokovic. Elsewhere, Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych ended the injury comebackeffort of Frenchman Gael Monfils, the number 12, with acomprehensive 6-1, 6-1 victory. Monfils was playing for the first time since a March abdominalmuscle problem.
The flamboyant French player lost serve five timeswhile never earning a break point against Berdych. Estoril champion Juan del Potro, the tenth seed, beat CroatianMarin Cilic 6-2, 6-4. - AFP/fa.
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