|Rafael Nadal was bothered by a blister on his right foot and lost on clay for only the second time in his last 105 matches. (ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/Associated Press)|
Nadal felled in Rome
Ferrero pulls off straight-set upset
ROME - Rafael Nadal lost for only the second time in his last 105 matches on clay, falling to Juan Carlos Ferrero, 7-5, 6-1, yesterday in the second round of the Rome Masters.
Nadal, who won the past three French Open titles, was bothered by a blister on his right foot and called for the trainer late in the second set.
The blister began bothering Nadal Sunday, when he won the Barcelona Open.
"Today when I woke up, I said it was impossible to play," Nadal said. "I spoke to the doctor [yesterday and Tuesday] and they put special protection on it and cream, but it was still tough."
Nadal's last loss on clay came against No. 1 Roger Federer in the Hamburg Masters in May 2007. Before that, Nadal had won a record 81 consecutive matches on the slow, red surface, a streak that began in April 2005.
The second-ranked Nadal had never lost at the Foro Italico, winning the Rome tournament each of the previous three years. The 23d-ranked Ferrero took the Rome title 2001, two years before he was the French Open champion.
"Juan Carlos is a very tough opponent, but certainly if you're not 100 percent at a Masters Series event, it is very tough," Nadal said. "I congratulate Juan Carlos, but today for sure was not my best tennis."
Last month, Nadal routed Ferrero, 6-4, 6-1, in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters en route to the title. He had won all four of their previous meetings on clay.
"It was a very important win for me," Ferrero said. "I feel special right now, I haven't had this special feeling for a long time."
Ferrero connected on a cross-court backhand winner to break Nadal and win the first set, then broke again to take a 3-1 lead in the second when Nadal netted a forehand.
"I can't put the ball long," Nadal said.
With Ferrero ahead, 4-1, in the second set, Nadal called for a trainer and had his foot retaped. After deciding to play on, he was broken again, then Ferrero served the match out at love.
"I tried to change some little things, keep the ball deep, and finish the points," Ferrero said.
The Rome Masters is an important clay-court warm-up tournament for the French Open, which begins May 25.
Earlier yesterday, third-ranked Novak Djokovic cruised past Steve Darcis, 6-4, 6-0, in his opening match.
Coming off an appearance in the Barcelona Open final, fifth-seeded David Ferrer lost to Radek Stepanek, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Spanish clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro upset seventh-seeded David Nalbandian, 6-4, 7-5. Igor Andreev knocked off No. 13 Juan Monaco, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, and Stanislas Wawrinka ousted No. 14 Andy Murray 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Croatian wild card Mario Ancic, 6-2, 6-2; No. 8 James Blake held off Andreas Seppi of Italy, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-1; and No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez - last year's runner-up - defeated Russian qualifier Evgeny Korolev, 6-3, 6-2.