French Open champion Rafael Nadal lost for the first time ever here as he was beaten 7-5, 6-1 in the second round of the Rome Masters by Juan Carlos Ferrero on Wednesday.
It was also the world No. 2’s first defeat on clay since losing the Hamburg final to Roger Federer, just under a year ago.
The Spanish king of clay, bidding for his fourth straight title in Rome, was clearly hampered by blisters on his right foot in the second set and former world No. 1 Ferrero showed a ruthless streak in dismissing the second seed. It was Ferrero’s first win on clay against Nadal and only his second victory in eight meetings, avenging a defeat by an almost identical score in Monte Carlo last month.
“It’s a very important win for me, it feels very special and I’ve not felt this special for a long time,” Ferrero said.
Nadal put his defeat down to his injured foot.
“Today I didn’t play my best tennis and the truth is that I didn’t feel very good on court,” he said.
Serbia’s Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the third round following a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Belgian Steve Darcis.
The world No. 3 has had a sensational start to the season, winning the first Grand Slam of the year and then also claiming the Indian Wells Masters title.
He currently leads the ATP champions race and is closing in on the world’s top two — Federer and Nadal — above him in the rankings.
Eighth seed James Blake of the US overcame a slow start to finally click into gear and dismiss home hope Andrea Seppi 7-6, 3-6, 6-1.
It was plain sailing for fourth seed Russian Nikolay Davydenko as he thrashed Croatian wild-card Mario Ancic 6-2, 6-2. Olympic doubles champion Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, the 12th seed, was equally ruthless as he dismissed Russian Evgeny Korolev 6-3, 6-2.
But it was a bad day for some of the other seeds as David Ferrer, David Nalbandian, Andy Murray and Juan Monaco all crashed out.
Spaniard Ferrer, seeded fifth, had a good start against Czech Radek Stepanek, but then saw his game collapse as he went down 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Argentina’s former Wimbledon finalist Nalbandian, seventh, came unstuck against clay specialist Nicolas Almagro of Spain, losing 6-4, 7-5. British 16th seed Murray went down 6-2, 7-6 to Swiss Stanislaw Wawrinka, while 13th seed Monaco lost in three sets to Russian Igor Andreev.