Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat at the hands of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters.
Ferrer won a thrilling encounter on Court Central 7-6 6-4 to set-up a last four encounter with Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Milos Raonic earlier in the day.
Nadal rarely loses to his compatriot, and the loss came as even more of a shock considering this was Ferrer's maiden win over the 27-year-old on clay in over a decade.
In addition, coming into this showdown, Nadal had won 17 out the last 19 matches between the two.
However the world no.1 was unusually off-colour as he racked up nearly double the unforced errors of his opponent. A number of missed forehand shots were key to him losing this tie, though an inspired Ferrer deserved credit for taking full advantage.
A ninth title was in the offing for Nadal, after Novak Djokovic ended his eight-year winning streak last time around.
However, things started badly for the 13-time Grand Slam champion in what turned out to be a grueling first set which lasted well over an hour.
As in his first match, Nadal was broken in his first service game and it turned out to be an sign of things to come in this last-eight tie.
He managed to break back before the situation got out of hand, but he was unable to get past Ferrer's dogged resistance.
The 32-year-old had the upper hand in a number of long and skillful rallies in front of a capacity crowd who were well behind their eight-time champion.
A tie-break proved to be a defining moment in the match. After falling behind 1-0, Ferrer found another level and carved through his visibly frustrated opponent with seven consecutive winners.
It didn't get any better for the man dubbed 'King of Clay' who, on this occasion, was well and truly dethroned.
After holding serve initially in the second and final set, Nadal was broken twice in quick succession to leave him staring down the barrel at 5-2.
The younger of the two Spanish stars attempted to prove why he is ranked as the world's best as he broke back once when Ferrer was serving for the match, serving out himself.
His comeback fell flat in the next point, though, as the world no.6 served out for the match.
The exit of the tournament favourite blows the competition wide open, Djokovic will fancy his chances of retaining the title but he has an injury concern. And Roger Federer will be hoping for a first Monaco win after overcoming Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their quarter-final tie.
For Nadal, he has come back from adversity before and he must do the same again. Losing in the final last time around hurt but he came back stronger and stormed to an eight Grand Slam win at Roland Garros.
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