Roger Federer’s brief clay season hasn’t gone as hoped. The defending Madrid champion was bounced today from the tournament by 23-year-old Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in the third round.
The 31-year-old Federer was playing in his first clay event of the season and his first tournament in almost two months. And the rust and the age showed. After dropping a brisk second set, Nishikori dominated the final stanza dictating via his deadly backhand which made Federer just look slow.
“He was my idol. Actually, to beat him, that was one of my goals for my tennis career,” said Nishikori. “It happens on clay and it’s amazing. It’s not really my favourite surface.
“I wasn’t really expecting this,” said Nishikori. “6-2 in the third, that’s not easy against him. I played well. I was a little bit tight of course, but he didn’t make many first serves in the third set and I was able to attack his second. I was even more aggressive in the third set. I’m pretty happy the way I played.”
In his last three events, Federer has been a SF (Rotterdam), QF (Indian Wells) and now third round in Madrid. It’s not a good trend.
“I’m going to go back to the practice court, train hard, and make sure I don’t have these kinds of days anymore,” Federer said. “I was lacking control from the baseline, and that pretty much carried through from start to finish. I’m pretty disappointed with my play. I’m not sure how well Kei thought he played. I didn’t think he had to play his very best either, which is even more disappointing.
“At least I’ll come out with some ideas of what I need to work on,” he added. “Clearly the ball flies here and it’s faster, so that makes it sometimes trickier to find your rhythm. We’re so accustomed to always finding that rhythm eventually, so it’s even more disappointing if you never really find it, which was the case today.”
Federer will now head to Rome as he tries to break a title drought that dates back to August of last year at Cincinnati.
“I feel like I want to go to the practice courts this afternoon, but clearly I’m not going to do that,” Roger said. “I’m going to make sure I’m as well prepared as I can be for Rome. I’m excited for that, because clearly I have no choice but to hit the practice courts. And I like to do that, and I’ll do that well and hard.”
Nishikori now get Spanish wildcard Pablo Andujar for a spot in the semifinals. What a great draw for the youngster.
The loss also means Federer will move back to No. 3 in the rankings. That’s because Andy Murray won today. The Scot earned his 11th straight win over Gilles Simon, but it was anything but easy with Murray prevailing 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) in a match that finished just after 1am local time.
“I went behind in the second set and changed tactics a little bit,” said Murray who has never been to a clay final. “I just managed to scratch through. Third set, started to play better. Could have made it a little bit easier for myself. I had a lot of chances and just didn’t get them. In the end, managed to come through.”
Next for Murray is a well-rested Tomas Berdych tomorrow night. The Czech, who has split eight meetings with Murray but lost the last two, toughed out Kevin Anderson 7-6, 7-5.
With Federer and Novak Djokovic both out, Rafael Nadal is the lone former champion left in the field. The 2-time Madrid winner rolled through Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3 to set up a heavyweight Spanish showdown with David Ferrer Friday.
Nadal, who’s 28-2 in his comeback this year, has won his last six matches against Ferrer winning all 13 sets.
“I will try to play a really good match and see,” said Ferrer. “It’s not only about tactics. It’s just that Rafa is a really good player. It’s very difficult to beat him. We’ll see how it goes. I will try to play aggressively. I will try to miss as few balls as possible, and let’s hope that Rafa doesn’t have his day.”
If Nadal loses he’ll also likely let slip any chance of being a top 4 seed at the French Open.
In the last quarterfinal of the day, Stanislas Wawrinka, who ended the run of Baby Fed Grigor Dimitrov, takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the class of the field and appear to be headed for an inevitable showdown in the final.
MANOLO SANTANA start 10:50 am
 S Williams (USA) vs [WC] A Medina Garrigues (ESP) – WTA
K Kanepi (EST) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 3:15 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  D Ferrer (ESP) – ATP
[WC] P Andujar (ESP) vs  K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
Not Before 8:00 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs  T Berdych (CZE) – ATP
 S Wawrinka (SUI) vs  J Tsonga (FRA) – ATP
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Federer’s Hardcourt Woes Continue, Chokes 5-1 Lead to Tsonga