Nadal crashes in Monte Carlo, Federer faces Djokovic
Rafael Nadal squeezes his eyes shut during his Monte-Carlo ATP Masters match against David Ferrer on April 18, 2014 in Monaco - by Jean Christophe Magnenet
Ferrer claimed a famous 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 win to hand the top seed only his third loss in the principality just a day after Nadal had won his 300th career claycourt match and 50th at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Meanwhile Federer, bidding to win the title for the first time, squandered his first 15 break points before finally coming good on a 16th on his way to a 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 defeat of French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Defending champion Djokovic was then taken to three sets by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain before the Serb second seed finally won 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 on his fourth match point and more than two hours of battle.
Ferrer came to the court on Friday with a 5-21 deficit against Nadal who last failed to make the final in Monte Carlo in his debut year of 2003.
"When the opponent is doing things better than you, the normal thing is to lose. That's what happened today," said Nadal, who committed 44 unforced errors.
"I didn't play the right way. I didn't play with the right intensity with my forehand. I played too short. I give him the chance to have the control of the point almost all the time. He did much better than me, so I just congratulate him."
Ferrer will now face off on Saturday against Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka who clinched a 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 over Canadian Milos Raonic.
Nadal's only other losses at the tournament occurred in the 2003 third round against Guillermo Coria and last year when he went down in straight sets to Djokovic in the final.
Prior to that final, he had won eight straight editions.
"I'm not happy today about what I did, not very happy about the way that I played the second set after losing the first," continued Nadal.
"I didn't play with the right intensity at the beginning of the second. I gave him a big opportunity at the beginning of the second."
- 'Rafa's not a machine' -
Nadal was well off the boil from the start in a contest where the opening set took 75 minutes and the third game required a quarter of an hour.
Ferrer battled his nerves as he served for victory leading 5-2, but was broken. On his second chance, the 32-year-old got the job done after two hours, 11 minutes.
The win was the first on clay for Ferrer against Nadal in a decade.
"The last time I beat Rafael on clay was 10 years ago. But I'm happy because I am in the semi-final and because I am playing very good this week," said Ferrer, who was runner-up to Nadal at the French Open last year.
"Maybe this week is my best of this season. Rafa's not a machine. Sometimes he can play not so good. Maybe today he didn't play his best tennis, and I played very good."
Federer, seeded fourth, won his 950th career match in a topsy-turvy clash against Tsonga, winning the second set on a fourth set point before running away with the third.
But Federer admitted he will need to step up his game when he faces Djokovic against whom he lost in the final at Indian Wells in March.
"I was frustrated, let's be honest," said Federer, who briefly lost his famous cool against Tsonga when he fired a ball out of the stadium.
"I did chuck a ball out of the stadium, I did scream sometimes. I was aggravated to a degree, but not to the extent where I totally lost it.
"I was not actually playing poorly or terribly, I was just taking wrong decisions sometimes. That kind of matched up with Jo's genius play sometimes, and his erratic play as we know it.
"I was just hoping my game was not going to go down because I was missing break points. So I was very happy with the composure overall. That got me home at the end, I think."
Djokovic also struggled to make the last four against Garcia-Lopez who had won the Casablanca claycourt title last weekend.
"I started out very poorly," said Djokovic. "There are no easy quarter-finals. Garcia-Lopez played well and I had to work for this win.
"I finally started to play as I wanted in the second set. I began to play more aggressively and I'm very content with this win."
Djokovic held his nerve with new coach Boris Becker looking on, saving two key break points in the seventh game of the second set to turn the tide.