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By Erik Gudris | Friday, April 18, 2014

 
David Ferrer Monte Carlo 2014

David Ferrer earned only his second ever win on clay against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters quarterfinals.

Photo Credit: AP

When David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal took to the court at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for their quarterfinal meeting on Friday, many expected only one result. What they got instead was a surprise upset that sends the World No. 1 exiting an event he basically owned for eight years in a row until last year.

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Ferrer could only lay claim to one victory against his friend Nadal on clay. That was back in 2004 at Stuttgart in their first career meeting. Since then, Nadal came up the winner on dirt every time including at last year's French Open final.

Even after Ferrer secured an early break in the opening set, expectations were that Nadal would grind his way back in control. Grind both men did in a 15-minute third game that saw Ferrer hold multiple game points while Nadal held multiple break points. Nadal finally got the break with a big backhand winner and it appeared that once again Nadal would rule over Ferrer.

Yet Nadal didn't help his campaign with untimely errors and poor shot selection. Ferrer stayed right with Nadal throughout the set that ended up in a tiebreak. Nadal would take the first point, but that would be it after that. Ferrer seized the initiative with Nadal only responding with more errors.

Two poor backhands in a row from Nadal down the stretch allowed Ferrer to take the tiebreak in convincing fashion seven points to one.

If the Monte Carlo crowd expected Nadal to roar back in the second set, they were met with disappointment. At 1-all, Nadal found himself down 15-40 on his serve. He saved one break point, but an ill-timed drop shot on the second one set up Ferrer for an easy winner.

Now up a break, Ferrer would extend his lead a few games later. Nadal sent a forehand long in the seventh game to give Ferrer a 5-2 advantage. At this stage, a subdued Nadal had now racked up 42 unforced errors.

But the real question would be if Ferrer could actually serve out the massive upset. He missed on his first chance as Nadal somehow found the lines with his shots to break for 5-3. Nadal then held serve for 5-4 throwing the pressure right back at Ferrer.

With palpable nervous energy oozing out from the crowd, Ferrer again attempted to serve it out. Ferrer would charge out to a 30-0 lead with a forehand winner. Nadal responded by keeping in a rally to level at 30-all. Would Ferrer blink and let Nadal right back in the match? Or would Ferrer stick to what got him to this moment?

Ferrer did the latter by hitting a fine inside out forehand winner earning his first match point. Nadal would lunge on his final shot sending it into the net. With that, Ferrer celebrated the surprise but well-earned 7-6(1), 6-4 victory.

Though both men hit the exact number of 24 winners each, Nadal's 44 unforced errors remained the key stat on the day.

Nadal's loss will have many wondering what's next for the World No.1. But perhaps that question is better asked of today's winner who will next face Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals. Ferrer raised eyebrows late last year when he confessed in an interview that he didn't believe he could win a Grand Slam in 2014, because he thought the "top guys" were just too good. If this result changes his mindset about that remains to be seen. But today at least, Ferrer proved that victories taste the sweetest the longer you wait for them.

 

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