Roger Federer crashed out of the Mutua Madrid Open with a surprise defeat to 23-year-old Kei Nishikori in the third round.
Nishikori, the 14th seed, defeated the defending champion 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in one hour, 35 minutes. Federer is the second high-profile casualty of the tournament following Novak Djokovic’s shock exit by way of Grigor Dimitrov two days earlier.
Federer was playing his first tournament in eight weeks, and his first of the year on clay, after taking an extended break due to niggling back problems. He was broken in the fifth game of the opening set, and his Japanese opponent served it out to take the lead.
The 17-time major winner fought back strongly in the second set, taking it 6-1, and looked to have the momentum as they moved into the deciding set.
However, Nishikori took control again, reasserting his ground game and broke Federer for an initial 3-1 advantage and held on for victory.
“Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with my play,” Federer stated in the post-match press conference. “I’m not sure how well Kei thought he played. I didn’t think he had to play his very best, either, which is even more disappointing. It doesn’t change my mindset going forward. I’m going to go back to the practice court, train hard, and make sure I don’t have these kind of days anymore.”
Nishikori, who will now meet Spanish wildcard Pablo Andujar in the quarterfinals, said, “I wasn’t really expecting this — 6-2 in the third, that’s not easy against him. I played well. I was a little bit tight, of course, but he didn’t make many first serves in the third set, and I was able to attack his second. I was even more aggressive in the third set. I’m pretty happy the way I played.”