BEIJING, China -- No. 56 Martin Klizan stunned No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the China Open on Friday, coming back from a break down in the final set to win 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the semifinals. Nadal had been sidelined with a right wrist injury since the summer and was playing in just his third match since Wimbledon. Klizan, a qualifier, blasted 33 winners past Nadal, who struggled with his rhythm and forehand. Nadal finished the match with 21 winners and 37 unforced errors. The loss was Nadal's first loss to a qualifier in 10 years, when he lost to Julien Benneteau in Lyon on October 4, 2004.
Klizan had total of 14 break points to Nadal's seven (the Spaniard converted three of them) during the match. He broke Nadal early in the first set only to give the break right back and then lose a tight tiebreaker. But the 25-year-old from Bratislava continued to pummel the ball in the second set. He fell behind 2-4 but won four consecutive games to win the second set and force a third. He fell behind an early break once again in the final set but went on to win the last four games from 2-3 down to hand Nadal his first loss in two hours and 37 minutes.
Nadal has been quick to temper any expectations for the remainder of his season all week. His goal is to get match-play and then put in a full month of off-season training to prepare for the 2015 season. Against Klizan, Nadal struggled to put the big-hitting Slovakian on the defensive and push him off the baseline. Klizan took advantage by stepping into the court and finding the angles to get Nadal on the run. The Spaniard admitted he was disappointed in his ability to recover from even normal positions on the court.
"I came here to two tournaments knowing that normal things that happen like today are going to happen," Nadal said. While the rest of the tour is sharp from playing every week, he believes he's starting from scratch again. "Accept that. Is practice here. Shanghai, even if it's a Masters 1000, today I cannot think about big things. I have to think about day by day, trying to do the best as possible to do again quick. But I need time."
One of the issues that has been on Nadal's mind all week are the balls that will be used in a majority of the tournaments for the rest of the season. Nadal blasted the ATP Head balls being used at the China Open, complaining of irregular bounces and a lack of general quality. Asked to elaborate on what he found so disagreeable with the Head balls, Nadal quipped, "I don't know what's good."
The remainder of the season will also be played on quicker outdoor hard courts as in next week's Shanghai Masters, and indoors at the Paris Masters and World Tour Finals -- both surfaces that are not his favorite. "As I said the other day, the balls and courts are difficult ones for me this part of the season, probably the most difficult ones," he said. "Shanghai is very quick. Last year was very quick. The ball is good. But is very quick. Paris and London we play with the same ball [as] here. So for me will be tough to find the right feelings."