By Lisa-Marie Burrows
MADRID, Spain - Today was the day when Fernando Verdasco finally defeated compatriot Rafael Nadal after fourteen attempts in front of a packed and shocked Manolo Santana court. Nadal had two opportunities to serve out the match but failed to do so on two occasions allowing his opponent back into the match. Fernando Verdasco dropped to the floor in tears and lay there in shock as his 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Rafael Nadal finally sunk in.
World No.2 Rafael Nadal did not settle well into his match from the onset. He lost his opening service game and appeared tentative on the court. It was the world No.19 who took the initiative and rallied his way through the first 6-3.
The second set offered much of the same except it was Nadal who had begun to settle into the match and find his groove to level the match up at 6-3.
The third set saw the rise and the fall of Rafael Nadal’s game. Both players exchanged service breaks and at 5-2 up the crowd thought it was curtains for Verdasco – but he had other things on his mind. Nadal began to mistime his shots and was occasionally hitting off the frame and that was when his nerves began to kick in. Verdasco struck some phenomenal shots and began to unleash his forehand which saw him level the match up and had the 6-5 advantage. Nadal continued to hit some untimely unforced errors and on his second match point, Verdasco dropped to his knees where he remained for several seconds lost in the moment of what he had just achieved.
Rafael Nadal was quick to attend the press conference after the match and naturally he was not happy with the result from the match:
“I lost today because I deserve to lose. I was at 5-2, I arrived at the moment to close the match and I didn’t know how to close it, I didn’t know how to do it. I made a big mistake with my match at 5-2. That’s what happened. He played better than me.”
When he was asked why he lost and whether it was due to the surface and his movement, Nadal looked confused and bluntly replied:
“Did you watch? Did you watch any of the matches? If you’re watching any of the matches… the answer is… “
It was clear that he was not sure how to answer the question and was then asked if he regrets playing on the surface:
“It’s the ATP and the tournament they can do what they want. I arrived here Thursday to prepare as best as I can for the tournament. I was not good enough to play and adapt my game to this court. If things continue like this I will be very sad and next year it will be one less tournament on my calendar.”
Later Nadal was questioned about his intentions for next year as to whether he was insinuating that he would not play:
“I’m not prepared to risk being here with injury. There are two options: They change it or… I’d like to play here but….”
The Roland Garros champion explained how he was worried that the result today would affect his preparation for Rome as he would go into the next tournament unprepared and without many matches.
The concern for the tournament and the organisers is how many more players will follow suit and not compete here? Nadal shrugged his shoulders and was unsure too:
“I don’t know, you can ask them. I think the tournament is great but that’s a bad decision. But they can do what everybody wants. Today is not the day to talk about that, today is the day to talk about Fernando – he played better than me and that’s why I lost, not because of the court. The court is the same for both and that is the real thing.”
Nadal made it clear that the blue clay court is not something that he and the other players should have to adapt to before a Grand Slam tournament and it is not just a question of getting use to it in time:
“You have to know that if you put Cincinnati on grass, what do you think is going to happen? You think people are going to be happy before the US Open? I don’t think so, it is a similar situation.”
The questions continued to be fired at Nadal about his loss and he continued to say that it was not just due to the surface that he lost but wanted to give credit to Verdasco:
“I haven’t been as good at adapting to the circumstances. I cannot get good control with the legs. Fernando played better than me and we both played on the same court. I can give him my congratulations and wishes for the rest of the tournament. I’m happy for him and sad for me. I have to accept it and I wasn’t at the level I should be. The surface is the same for all and it’s equal.”
Nadal closed up by addressing his mistakes and reflecting on the turnout of the match:
“Well, the one who wins is the one who commits less errors. The one who wins is the one who deserves it the most.”
Shortly after Rafael Nadal’s loss, Roger Federer was on court and made short work of Richard Gasquet with a 6-3, 6-2 win. The world No.3 spoke about Nadal’s loss and admitted he was also shocked by the result:
“It was surprising obviously. Verdasco’s a great player, a quality player. We’ve seen him for years that maybe he should have beaten Rafa in the past but this came as a surprise being 5-2 down in the third, you don’t expect the guy to come back from that, especially on clay.”
“I didn’t see much of the match but I’m sure Verdasco played some good tennis to come back into the match that’s what you have got to do against Rafa, so it’s a bit of a surprise and the tournament goes on, unfortunately without Rafa, but maybe it gives a bigger opportunity for players around in the draw.”
Federer made it clear that he is not angry about the surface but “understands Rafa’s disappointment as he was against it from the start – and so was I. For him to go out in the third round is obviously disappointing, he never felt comfortable on the surface – it is a tough surface. It’s a tough loss and there is frustration obviously.”
Fernando Verdasco’s on court duties did not end after the singles match as shortly after he was on court seven in his doubles match with David Marrero – but this time he was unsuccessful losing 3-6, 6-7.
Naturally the Spaniard was extremely happy regardless and was enjoying the special victory from today:
“Everything changed [after being 2-5 down], I started to be more positive, believing in myself that I could win and come back.”
Verdasco found the key to his success today:
“I was more confident today than any time before. I was not missing one return [at the end] and I still kept believing – and I finally won!”
Today was a victory in his career and a moment in his life that Fernando Verdasco will not forget, especially in his home town:
“It is my biggest victory of my career and against him, here in Madrid.”
Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.