Rafael Nadal upset at Madrid Open
MADRID -- Rafael Nadal lost to Spanish countryman Fernando Verdasco for the first time in the Madrid Open on Thursday, then he and top-ranked Novak Djokovic threatened not to return if the new blue clay-court wasn't discarded.
Nadal blew a 5-2 lead in the third set in losing 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, his first defeat to Verdasco in 14 matches.
The third-round loss was Nadal's earliest exit in a clay-court tournament since he fell to Olivier Mutis in the second round in Palermo, Italy, in 2004.
Defending champion Djokovic and Roger Federer, meanwhile, eased into the quarterfinals with straight-set wins.
Nadal blamed his first loss on clay in almost a year on the blue clay, which players have said was slippery.
"Being able to move is very important for me and if I can't move well, I can't hit the ball well either," said Nadal, the second seed and two-time Madrid champion. "If things don't change, this will be one less tournament on the calendar for me.
Feat of Clay
Fernando Verdasco became just the seventh player to beat Rafael Nadal in a clay-court match when he stunned him Thursday at the Madrid Open.
Players to beat Nadal on clay
|2008||Juan Carlos Ferrero||Rome|
|2005||Gaston Gaudio||Buenos Aires|
|*Nadal: 215-9 on clay since 2005|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"This surface destabilizes the game. It is a completely different game and I don't want to take risks."
Verdasco, who became only the seventh player to beat Nadal on clay in eight years, burst into tears on the court in front of his hometown fans upon sealing the upset with a forehand winner.
"After losing so many times against honestly the best player on clay ever, to beat him on clay is the maximum," said an emotional Verdasco. "I don't have words. I am happy for the win, although it is difficult to hold myself together now. I need to calm down, rest and get ready for the next match."
Djokovic had an easier time defeating Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (5), 6-4, but said he would also boycott the tournament if it didn't go back to the traditional red-clay surface.
"They are claiming that the court is exactly the same as red clay, which is not true because there is a big difference," the defending champion said. "You are tripping, slipping all the time, sliding. The winner will be the one who doesn't get hurt by the end of the week.
"It's a new experience, and the way it looks this year, hopefully the last experience."
Djokovic let slip five set points before finally taking the first set in the tiebreaker and then broke his Swiss challenger twice to decide the match in an hour and 45 minutes.
The third-seeded Federer hit 10 aces and didn't concede a break against Gasquet en route to improving his record this season to 24 wins and three losses.
While not going as far as the sport's other top players, Federer said he understood their frustration.
"I understand (Nadal's) disappointment. He was against (blue clay) from the start and so was I," Federer said. "He never felt comfortable on the surface. It is a tough surface and that can only add to the anger even more."
The 16-time Grand Slam champion will face David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.
The fifth-seeded Ferrer saved three match points before smacking an unreachable shot into the corner to seal his hard-fought 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (8) victory over fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
MORE TENNIS HEADLINES
- Djokovic wins 5th Aussie title, denies Murray
- Serena Williams wins 6th Australian Open
- Hingis wins doubles; 1st Slam title since return
- Djokovic outlasts Wawrinka in 5 to reach final