Monte Carlo (Monaco): David Ferrer produced a major upset at the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday as the persistent Spaniard stunned eight-time champion Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
Ferrer, seeded sixth, handed the top seed only his third loss at the tournament a day after Nadal had won his 300th clay match of his career and 50th at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Ferrer came to the court with a 5-21 deficit against his compatriot, whose form has dropped this season.
Spain's David Ferrer changes his shirt during his Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament tennis match against compatriot Rafael Nadal on Friday in Monaco. Pic/AFP
"When the opponent is doing the things better than you, the normal thing is to lose. That's what happened today," said Nadal.
"I didn't play the right way. I didn't play with the right intensity with my forehand.
"I played too short. I give him the chance to have the control of the point almost all the time. He did much better than me, so just congratulate him."
Ferrer will now face off on Saturday against Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Nadal in that grand slam final and booked his place 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 over Canadian Milos Raonic.
Nadal's only other losses at the tournament occurred in the 2003 third round against Guillermo Coria and last year when he went down in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the final.
Prior to that final, he had won eight straight editions.
"I'm not happy today about what I did, not very happy about the way that I played the second set after losing the first," continued Nadal.
- Rafa's not a machine -
"I didn't play with the right intensity at the beginning of the second. I give him big opportunity at the beginning of the second. I cannot do it."
Nadal was well off the boil from the start in a contest where the opening set took 75 minutes and the third game required a quarter of an hour.
Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts during his Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament tennis match against compatriot David Ferrer on Friday in Monaco. Pic/AFP
Ferrer battled his nerves as he served for victory leading 5-2, but was broken. On his second chance, the 32-year-old got the job done after two hours, 11 minutes.
The win was the first on clay for Ferrer against Nadal in a decade.
"The time I beat Rafael in clay court was 10 years ago. But I'm happy because I am in the semi-final and because I am playing very good this week," said Ferrer.
"Maybe this week is my best of this season.
"Rafa's not a machine. Sometimes he can play not so good always. Maybe today he doesn't play his best tennis, and I played very good."
Wawrinka, who had a walkover in the previous round when Spain's Nicolas Almagro pulled out with a foot injury, took control as Canadian Raonic twice lost leads in the opening set tie-breaker.
The mistakes gave an opening to Wawrinka, who took the first set on his initial opportunity and then broke to start the second as the frustrated Raonic let go of a 40-15 lead in the first game.
From that point on, momentum totally shifted to the Swiss world number three, who broke the Canadian again for 5-2 before serving out for the match in 90 minutes.
"I showed him on every point that the match will be tough for him," said the winner. "Even in the first set he was staying with me. He was close to winning the tie-break.
"But it was a tough set for him because he had to play his best, he had to always try something.
"I felt strong from the baseline, I feel good physically. I know that on clay courts if I play my best tennis I can beat those guys.
"I know it's never easy, but I'm really happy the way I did today."
He now stands 3-0 over Raonic, who was playing his first clay court quarter-final at the Masters 1000 level.
Wawrinka duplicated his 2009 result by reaching the semi-finals and improving his season record to 18-3.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic defeated Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals on Friday.
Djokovic, the second seed, looked to be heading towards the same possible upset fate which befell eight-time champion Rafael Nadal earlier in the day when the Spaniard lost to David Ferrer 7-6 (7/1), 6-4.
But Djokovic held his nerve, saving two key break points in the seventh game of the second set to turn the tide against the winner of the Casablanca claycourt title last weekend.
Djokovic will face off in a Saturday semi-final against Roger Federer, whom he beat in last month's Indian Wells final but lost to in Dubai in February.
Earlier, Federer battled back from a set down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 and reach the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals on Friday.