Any possibility that Rafael Nadal might eventually become a convert to blue clay was dashed at the Madrid Masters last night as the world No 2 suffered a remarkable defeat to his fellow Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal, who had not lost a match on clay this year, had beaten Verdasco in all 13 of their previous meetings but produced a performance littered with errors to lose 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Despite his ragged display, Nadal had seemed poised for victory when he served for the match at 5-2 in the final set, but Verdasco won five games in a row to secure victory after more than three hours. The world No 19, who had not even won a set in his six previous meetings on clay with Nadal, kissed the court surface before leaving the stadium.
Nadal, however, has been openly critical of the decision to play the tournament on blue clay. While the tournament organisers claim that it helps to see the ball more clearly, many players have said the surface is too slippery.
Serena Williams hit 43 winners to beat Caroline Wozniacki 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Williams will face Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals.