Rafael Nadal loses to Fernando Verdasco in three hours at the Madrid Open
It's a rare loss for the King of Clay, who was on a 22-match winning streak
Loss will reopen debate on Madrid tournament's use of blue clay
Nadal says he will skip event next year if it is still played on blue clay
World number two Rafael Nadal has sensationally lost to Fernando Verdasco 6-3 3-6 7-5 in the third round of the Madrid Open.
The loss was the first defeat of the clay court season for the six-time French Open champion.
Considered arguably the greatest player to ever set foot on clay, Nadal had recently won in Monte Carlo – a record eighth title – before clinching his seventh tournament victory in Barcelona. He had previously beaten Verdasco in all 13 of their previous meetings.
It took Verdasco three hours and 11 minutes to overcome Nadal in an error-strewn match. Verdasco hit nine double faults but Nadal somehow conspired to lose despite leading 5-2 in the final set.
It brought to an end a 22-match winning streak for Nadal that stretched back to 2011.
“I never was in control of the match, I didn’t know how to win a point,” Nadal told reporters, before suggesting he will not show up next year unless the controversial blue clay surface is changed.
“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 to lose.”
The shock defeat will reopen the debate about the Madrid Open’s use of blue clay. World number one Novak Djokovic has already been an outspoken critic of the surface.
“It’s impossible to move,” he told reporters earlier in the week.
“I cannot find the words to describe this court. It’s really tough to play like this on a center court. We need serious discussion about the future of this blue clay.
“We cannot change anything this year, but my first impressions are not good. I don’t want to be the one complaining, but I say honestly what I feel.”
Ironically it was Nadal that refused to be drawn on the issue of the blue clay after he had comfortably beaten Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday.
“It was my first match here in these circumstances,” he said. “I am very happy about my result, about the way that I played.”
But Nadal changed his tone after the defeat.
“I couldn’t close out the match at 5-2. He played better than me,” he said.
“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 things continue like this, it will be very sad. Next year this will be one less event for my calendar.”
Verdasco will next play sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych in the next round.
Despite his complaints about the surface, Djokovic moved into the quarterfinals after beating Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 6-4.
Roger Federer also reached the quarterfinals after dispatching French 14th seed Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-2. The win, coupled with Nadal’s shock loss, means that Federer will move up to second in the world rankings ahead of the Spaniard.
Meanwhile Serena Williams fought back after a disastrous start against Caroline Wozniacki to reach the quarterfinals of the women’s event in Madrid.
The American lost the first set 6-1, before storming back 6-3 6-2 to set up a mouthwatering tie against Russian second seed Maria Sharapova, who made the last eight after Lucie Safarova withdrew citing an illness.
“I had a slow start today, I don’t know why,” said Williams.
“I was sluggish and mentally maybe fighting some demons.”
Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska continued her fine form by beating Italy’s Roberta Vinci 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.