Fourth seed Rafael Nadal, playing the unseeded Viktor Troicki, lost his opening match at the Shanghai Rolex Masters today in straight sets, with the Serb taking a 6-3, 7-6 win over his higher-ranked Spanish rival.
Troicki, playing his own second round match, beat Czech ace Lukas Rosol in straight sets in the first round; Nadal, as one of the top seeds, received a first round bye.
Nadal, who had a strong clay court season this year, has struggled with injury and consistency, and has suffered surprise losses to a number of lower-ranked players – most recently at the China Open, where he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals.
The Spaniard, who is regarded as the King of Clay, appeared today to be struggling with the speedy courts in Shanghai, managing to win just over 50% of his serves in the first set, compared to Troicki, who had a 100% win rate on his first serves.
Troicki took Nadal to break point on four occasions, effectively breaking twice to eventually win the first set.
Nadal appeared to see a resurgence of sorts in the second set, and fought back effectively to stave off a match point for Troicki as he took that set to a tiebreak. But it was the Serb who lead the tiebreak from the start, managing aces at crucial moments – including a number of them straight down the line to outfox Nadal.
Today’s loss means that Nadal will need a couple of good performances to make his place at the ATP World Tour Finals in London certain. Currently at seventh in the Road to London with eight places up for grabs, the Spaniard is closely followed by Belgian ace and Shanghai 11th seed David Goffin, who defeated France’s Benoit Paire in his first match.
Although his spot in London is not certain, Nadal, closely pursued on the Road to London by Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych, sees the heat slightly taken off him, with both Cilic and Berdych exiting the Shanghai Masters with losses to Alexander Zverev and Marcel Granollers respectively.
The fourth seed's loss today was one of a number of upsets as Nick Kyrgios, Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov all lost an opportunity to fight for the title in Shanghai.
Troicki had never beaten Nadal in any of his five previous attempts, but today triumphed in straight sets with some big-hitting thrown at his higher-ranked rival.