Rafa Nadal suffered his first clay court defeat in 23 matches and threatened to boycott next year's Madrid Masters if officials did not ditch the blue clay that players have labelled "too slippery" and only fit for "smurfs (to) play on".
After a shock 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 third-round loss to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the French Open champion vowed not to return to the Masters event unless traditional red courts, which are slower and more suited to his game, were reinstated.
"The movements are very important for me and here I cannot move so I cannot hit the ball the way that I want," he told a news conference after squandering a 5-2 lead in the final set.
"The ATP and the tournament can do what they want," he added referring to the controversial innovation sanctioned by the governing body for this year's tournament.
"I tried my best to prepare but I wasn't good enough to adapt my game to this court.
"The only thing that I know is that if things continue like this I am very sad but next year will be one less tournament in my calendar."
Nadal's outburst was perhaps understandable considering he would have fancied his chances of beating Verdasco, the 15th seed, having won all 13 of their previous meetings.
However, an error-strewn performance ended the world number two's bid for a third straight clay title this season and deprived him of a chance to avenge his defeat by Novak Djokovic in last year's final.
Verdasco broke his Davis Cup team-mate seven times in all, losing his own serve six times, and clubbed 31 winners to his opponent's 19.
A typically crashing forehand drive sealed victory on his second match point and he fell flat on his back on the court before kissing the clay and heading off to play a doubles match.
"I lost because I deserved to lose today," Nadal said.
"Even when I was 5-2 ahead and I had a chance to close the match I didn't know how to do it. He played better than me and he beat me, that's it."
Verdasco next plays Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who was the first player into the last eight when he thrashed 12th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-1.
It was entirely another story for top seed Djokovic, who needed two match points to beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 and Roger Federer, who rolled over Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2.
Djokovic also slammed the court after his laboured second-round victory before announcing he would not play in the Spanish capital next year unless the red clay courts were reinstated.
"They are saying it's exactly the same as the red clay which is not true because there is a big difference," the Serb said.
"You are tripping and slipping and sliding all the time and winner will be the one who doesn't get hurt until the end of the week because a lot of players fell down.
"Generally it's a new experience and the way it looks this year hopefully the last experience."
With the exit of Nadal, Federer now has a chance to return to the number two ranking if he can win the title.
"It was a surprising loss for Rafa," Federer said.
"But Verdasco is a quality player who should have maybe beaten Nadal in the past.
"Down two breaks in a match on clay you don't expect a guy to come back. But the tournament goes on without Rafa.
"I did well today, playing clean tennis. Maybe I had some unforced errors when I went for shots, but the ball flies here.
"I served well when I had to and played well on big points," he said ahead of his clash with fifth seed David Ferrer, who beat compatriot Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (10-8).
Alexandr Dolgopolov, the 16th seed, edged out French fourth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 and will play 10th seed and former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro after the rangy Argentine thumped fellow big-server Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-2, 6-4.
In the women's draw, Serena Williams overcame a lethargic start to upset fellow former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and set up a quarter-final meeting with old foe Maria Sharapova.
The ninth seed powered to a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Dane, clubbing a blistering 43 winners to reach the last eight in the Spanish capital for the first time.
Sharapova progressed without hitting a shot in the morning after unseeded Czech Lucie Safarova pulled out with a gastro-intestinal illness.
Fourth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska, who climbed to world number three this week, won 7-6, 6-4 against Italy's Roberta Vinci and will meet American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, a 6-1 6-7 6-3 victor over Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues.
AFP/ReutersTags: tennis, sport, spain First posted May 11, 2012 07:56:52