David Ferrer improved to 2-17 on clay against Rafael Nadal. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
David Ferrer stunned eight-time champion Rafael Nadal 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday, his first victory over his Spanish countryman on clay in 10 years.
Ferrer entered having lost 17 consecutive matches on clay against Nadal. In fact, Ferrer's only victory on the surface came in their first career meeting, in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2004.
Ferrer's blunt assessment before the match was that in order to win he needed to play his best and benefit from an off day from Nadal, who had won 30 clay matches in a row. That's precisely what happened. Both men struck 24 winners, but Nadal hit 44 unforced errors compared to Ferrer's 28 and played some of his worst tennis at the most inopportune times, such as in the tiebreaker that capped an 85-minute first set. Ferrer broke twice in the second set for a 5-2 lead and held on after Nadal got one break back and reached 30-30 when Ferrer served for the match at 5-4.
"Rafa is not a machine," Ferrer said after the match. "Sometimes he can play not so good always. Well, maybe today he didn't play his best tennis, and I played very good."
The 32-year-old Ferrer wasn't in peak form when he arrived this week, having retired from the Mexican Open with a leg injury, withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open and lost to Kei Nishikori in the fourth round of the Sony Open. But this week he's beaten Jeremy Chardy, Grigor Dimitrov and Nadal in straight sets. He'll play Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals on Saturday. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will meet in the other semifinal.
"I am happy because I am in the semifinal and because I am playing very good this week," Ferrer said. "Maybe this week, it was my best week of the season."
Nadal won eight consecutive Monte Carlo titles from 2005-2012, but he's been shut out the last two years. Djokovic ended his 46-match winning streak at the Masters 1000 tournament in last year's final, and now Ferrer has dealt him only his third loss in 53 matches here. Friday marked his earliest exit from a red clay tournament since a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling at the 2009 French Open. This is just the second time since 2004 that Nadal hasn't advanced to the final of an ATP Masters 1000 on red clay.
"Losing hurts everywhere," Nadal said. "On clay always a little bit more. I am not happy about what I did. Not very happy about the way that I played the second set after losing the first. I didn't play with the right intensity at the beginning of the second. I give him a big opportunity at the beginning of the second. I cannot do that."
(via Alex Coules)