Djokovic defeat suggests changing of guard on clay

For the last two years Novak Djokovic has run Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer close in the clay court season.

This year there are signs of a changing of the guard. While nobody would dream of writing off Federer, despite the world No 1's defeat on his seasonal debut on clay earlier this week, Djokovic's difficulties were underlined when he was beaten 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 here yesterday by Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters.

It was Djokovic's second successive defeat by the Spaniard, who brushed him aside for the loss of four games in an hour and a half in the Monte Carlo semi-finals a fortnight ago. This was a much closer contest, Verdasco winning after three and a quarter hours in the heat of the day, but Djokovic does not appear to be the force he was.

Verdasco, in contrast, is going from strength to strength. The 26-year-old left-hander from Madrid has had an outstanding clay-court season so far, winning last week's tournament in Barcelona and reaching the final in Monte Carlo, where he lost to Nadal.

Djokovic's frustrations were evident in the seventh game, when he hurled his racket as Verdasco made the first break. The world No 9 failed to serve out for the first set but played a good tie-break, which he won 7-4. Djokovic responded well, breaking serve three times in the second set, but Verdasco remained strong in the decider and converted his first match point with an ace.

Although Djokovic was disappointed with the result, he said he was happy with his performance and his form in the build-up to the French Open, which starts in three weeks' time.

Like Andy Murray, Djokovic was also below par in the recent Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, winning only two matches at what have been productive tournaments for him in the past. "You can't have the best year of your career every year – except if you are Nadal or Federer,'' Djokovic said.

Verdasco, meanwhile, could not explain his new-found success on clay. "I've been doing everything as I've always done before,'' he said. "Beating Djokovic in the semi-finals in Monte Carlo was important for me, as was beating [David] Ferrer and [Robin] Soderling in Barcelona. Beating top players like that makes you believe in yourself.''

In today's semi-finals Verdasco will again meet Ferrer, Murray's conqueror in the third round. The world No 17's consistency quickly wore down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 12 minutes. Nadal, who hit top form to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1, will face Ernests Gulbis, a 7-6, 6-1 winner over Feliciano Lopez, in the other semi-final.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup