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By Chris Oddo

Nishikori, Madrid, 2013 (May 9, 2013) -- Roger Federer's title defense at the Mutua Madrid Open came to an abrupt halt on Thursday afternoon as the World No. 2 was bounced out of the draw by 14th-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

Read: Can Wawrinka Step Out From Federer's Shadow in 2013?

It was Federer's fifth loss of the season, and his first before the quarterfinals. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has yet to reach a final in 2013.

After an 8-week layoff, Federer had notched an easy win over Radek Stepanek in his first match at Madrid, but today he struggled to hit his spots.
"I was lacking control from the baseline, and that pretty much carried through from start to finish,” Federer said afterwards. "I'm not sure how well Kei thought he played. I didn't think he had to play his very best either, which is even more disappointing"

In his second career meeting with Federer, Nishikori converted on three of four break point opportunities, including two of three in a one-sided final set, to secure his fourth victory against top five opposition.

After a slow start, Federer appeared to be taking charge of the match in the second set. He earned seven break points, converting two, and only lost four points on serve.

But in the third, Federer failed to convert a 0-30 opportunity in with Nishikori serving at 1-1. In the very next game he would surrender the pivotal break. It was a sluggish decider by Federer. He missed his spots often, and he failed to put returns in play each time that he had a small window against Nishikori's serve.

Finally, he was broken a second time while serving to stay in the match, when a blistering forehand from the 14th seed proved too hot for Federer to handle on Nishikori's first match point of the afternoon.

The loss marks the first time that Federer hasn't reached the quarterfinals in ten previous trips to Madrid. He is the only three-time winner in Madrid history, with two additional finals on his résumé.

Nishikori will face Spanish wildcard Pablo Andujar of Spain in the quarterfinals.

Nadal Cruises Again

Rafael Nadal won for the 28th time in 30 matches when he dispatched Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 6-2, 6-3. Nadal has now won 10 consecutive sets against the 30-year-old since suffering a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing in Chennai in 2008.

Read: Nadal's Nurturing Nature Will Enable His Revival

Nadal has reached the final of every event he has played since his return to the game in February, but he still feels his game is cementing itself together. "I think as more as I am going to compete, my physical performance will improve,” he said. “That's for sure. When you practice more, when you compete more weeks in a row, your performance physically begins to improve. I don't have any doubt on that. If I have the right feelings physically and I'm free of injuries, I'm sure that I will be improving my tennis, my physical performance, everything on court.”

The Spaniard will gun for his third Madrid title, and despite the fact that the media wanted to talk about his chances at Roland Garros, the 26-year-old insists he's more about staying in the moment and focussing on his upcoming quarterfinal with David Ferrer. "Sincerely I'm not still looking at Roland Garros as a goal,” Nadal said. “I tell myself day after day to try to play as good as possible in these moments. That's what I'm looking forward to. Since I've been back I haven't had the security that I am in my perfect moment or I cannot put myself some goals. I just to have try and feel that I am getting better and better day after day. So, you know, I have to have my feet on the ground. I made it to the quarterfinals of Madrid. For me, it's lovely to be able to say that today. I'll try to enjoy the quarterfinal match tomorrow.”

(Photo Credit: AP)


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