Rafael Nadal has crashed out of the Shanghai Masters second round after he was beaten by compatriot Feliciano Lopez on Wednesday.
Lopez secured the tie 6-3 7-6 (6) in 1 hour and 45 minutes to notch just his third win over the Mallorcan in 12 attempts and 11 years of playing against him.
Nadal dominated the early stages of the match, but Lopez dug his heels in to break the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s serve in the sixth game.
Eager to capitalise on his weary opponent, the World No. 21 settled to win 80% of his first serves and strike nine aces en route to claiming the opener.
With the first set dead and buried, Nadal showed his trademark grit at the beginning of the second to win the opening three games.
But just when the 28-year-old had seemingly taken control, Lopez responded in kind to break back in the ninth game and eventually push the all-important set to 6-6.
The gulf in fitness between the pair became glaringly obvious in the tie-break as Lopez produced a catalogue of drop shots to exploit an uncharacteristically sluggish Nadal.
Although Nadal had a chance to take the set at 6-5, Lopez slammed the door shut and snatched the next three points on the trot to book a place in the last 16.
Lopez will play big-serving American John Isner in the third round.
Nadal battling appendicitis
Nadal’s place in the tournament was uncertain after he was diagnosed with appendicitis on Tuesday.
However, the combative World No. 2 elected to dose up on antibiotics and play through the pain against Lopez.
The Spaniard was clearly out of sorts for much of the encounter, but he did manage to produce a handful of typically brilliant moments.
During his first service game, Nadal whipped a stinging down the line forehand winner from inside the tramlines after Lopez looked to have stretched him out of the point.
Nadal, who revealed he is likely to undergo surgery at the end of the year, was gracious in defeat and played down the severity of his latest health issue.
"For sure [I don't feel] perfect. It's the same way that I felt before. A little bit more dizzy now. But that's it. Nothing that I have to worry about,” Nadal said.
“When you lose a match, it is not the moment to talk about obvious things. I lost. Feli played better than me.”
Fight for No. 2
Nadal’s early exit from the Shanghai Masters could be a pivotal factor in deciding who takes the World No. 2 spot to the season-ending London O2 Masters in November.
With Nadal taking home just 45 points from this year’s event, his closest rival, Roger Federer has every chance of leapfrogging his rival into second place.
The Swiss currently holds 8,170 points, 285 behind Nadal, and needs to reach the last four to surpass him.