Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal slumped to a shock Monte Carlo Masters quarter-final defeat to compatriot David Ferrer on Friday, while Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic struggled into a semi-final showdown.
Ferrer claimed a famous 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 win to hand the top seed only his third loss in the principality, just a day after Nadal had won his 300th career clay-court match and 50th at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Meanwhile Federer, bidding to win the title for the first time, squandered his first 15 break points before finally coming good on a 16th on his way to a 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 defeat of French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Defending champion Djokovic was then taken to three sets by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, before the Serb second seed finally won 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 on his fourth match point and more than two hours of battle.
Ferrer came to the court on Friday with a 5-21 deficit against Nadal, who last failed to make the final in Monte Carlo in 2003 — his debut year.
“When the opponent is doing things better than you, the normal thing is to lose. That’s what happened today,” said Nadal, who committed 44 unforced errors.
Ferrer was to face off yesterday against Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka, who clinched a 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 victory 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 Djokovic in the final.
Prior to that final, he had won eight straight editions.
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.
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 last time I beat Rafael on clay 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, who was runner-up to Nadal at the French Open last year.
Federer, seeded fourth, won his 950th career match in a topsy-turvy clash against Tsonga, winning the second set on a fourth set-point before running away with the third.
However, Federer admitted he will need to step up his game when he faces Djokovic, against whom he lost in the final at Indian Wells last month.
“I was frustrated, let’s be honest,” said Federer, who briefly lost his famous cool against Tsonga when he fired a ball out of the stadium.
“I did chuck a ball out of the stadium, I did scream sometimes. I was aggravated to a degree, but not to the extent where I totally lost it. I was not actually playing poorly or terribly, I was just taking wrong decisions sometimes. That kind of matched up with Jo’s genius play sometimes and his erratic play as we know it,” he added.
Djokovic also struggled to make the last four against Garcia-Lopez, who had won the Casablanca clay-court title last weekend.
Djokovic held his nerve with new coach Boris Becker looking on, saving two key break points in the seventh game of the second set to turn the tide.