A fresh jolt to tennis’ hierarchy

Roger Federer is latest star to be put out in Madrid Rafa Nadal blazes into last eight

Roger Federer, a former tournament winner at Madrid’s Caja Mágica, lost to Kei Nishikori.
Roger Federer, a former tournament winner at Madrid’s Caja Mágica, lost to Kei Nishikori.ALEJANDRO RUESGA

The third round of the Madrid Masters started fortuitously for the remains of the Armada when Anabel Medina became the first Spanish woman to reach the quarterfinals since the tournament moved to clay. The world number 63 advanced without even hitting a ball after her opponent, Yaroslava Shvedova, withdrew with an arm injury.

How much further wild card Medina will get, however, is probably a question to which the rankings provide an answer — world number one and defending champion Serena Williams awaits. The American juggernaut was in no mood for hanging about on Thursday as she ruthlessly swatted aside 13th seed Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-1.

An all-Spain encounter on Stadium 3 provided the home nation’s first men’s quarterfinalist when Daniel Gimeno-Traver was forced to retire at 5-5 in the first set of his match against Pablo Andújar. Both players have been punching above their weight this week, the former having dispatched world number nine Richard Gasquet and the latter accounting for 10th seed Marin Cilic and John Isner.

Andújar’s next opponent is world number 16 Kei Nishikori, who continued this year’s trend of major upsets by dumping defending champion Roger Federer out in three sets. Number one seed Novak Djokovic is also out.

Youzhny is one of few non-top 10 men to have beaten Nadal more than once

On court before that match was the man everybody came to see and the crowd on Manolo Santana duly swelled in expectation of Rafael Nadal’s entrance. His opponent, Mikhail Youzhny, is in the very small non-top 10 club that has beaten Nadal more than once — the Russian held a 4-9 record going into the game. However, all of those victories came on hard courts, not the crushed brick that Nadal has made his fiefdom. And the king was in no mood for holding court any longer than necessary — although he was handed a warning for lingering between serves in the second set, not without good reason.

The call elicited what would be one of many scowls aimed at a crowd unable to find their seats within a minute of the restart, ball girls unable to provide a towel sufficiently swiftly and a line call that drew the chair umpire to the court and some even-handed jeering from the stands.

To the overall delight of the Spaniard’s fans, though, Nadal was in imperious fettle, reaching a drop shot and returning the favor on the slide to bring up the double break at 5-2 and then serving out routinely to take the first set in just 30 minutes. The world number five even threw in a shot behind his back in an opening set marked by his thunderous forehand drives.

But Youzhny is a seasoned competitor and despite looking rather forlorn as he dumped a second serve into the net to hand Nadal an early break in the second, the world 31 threw up pockets of resistance with some fine shot making — although he counterbalanced these with a few wayward forehands when in winning positions. The Russian was enjoying the best of Nadal’s ill-starred love affair with the net cord and reached 3-3 when a forehand dropped apologetically into the Spaniard’s half of the court. But even though Nadal’s radar was slightly askew in the middle of the set, Youzhny returned the favor with a pair of unforced errors in his next service game, which Nadal claimed with a great retrieve and lob, eliciting the afternoon’s first roar of “¡Vamos!” from within the confines of the court.

Another untroubled hold brought up 3-5 and when Youzhny again attempted to force Nadal’s hand with a drop shot on match point, the Spaniard scurried forward and gratefully scooped it cross court for a 6-2, 6-3 victory in 75 minutes. Nadal will play either David Ferrer or the evergreen Tommy Haas for a place in the semifinals.

Fernando Verdasco looked on course to repeat his quarterfinal showing of last year when he took the first set against world number seven Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but the Frenchman fought back to take the next two for the loss of just five games. Tsonga will now play the winner of the match between Djokovic-conqueror Grigor Dimitrov and Stanislas Wawrinka.

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