Rafael Nadal’s fitful 2016 suffered another hit on Wednesday as he was dumped out of the Shanghai Masters by Viktor Troicki 6-3 7-6 (7-3).
Former world number one Nadal had targeted a strong showing at the ATP Masters 1000 event, admitting to being unsatisfied with his performance levels in the build-up to the tournament.
With a centre court crowd firmly at his back, Nadal’s every minor success was met with roaring appreciation, but Serbia’s Troicki had the gameplan to disrupt an opponent still rediscovering form after a wrist injury wrecked his French Open and Wimbledon.
Troicki took Nadal to the trenches on the Spaniard’s serve, hanging back beyond the baseline and tempting the ‘King of Clay’ into battles of attrition.
Nadal initially had the stamina to hold off Troicki, but, unable to make any inroads in the Serbian’s lightning-fast service games, he eventually cracked in game seven.
Troicki’s scrambling took the game to deuce, when he was the beneficiary of a net cord, but the break point was converted in far from fortuitous manner, Troicki hurtling towards the right wing to send a stunner up the line and seize the initiative.
The first set was Troicki’s after another show of grit on Nadal’s serve, the left-hander going wide before Troicki manoeuvred his adversary neatly to find empty space on his left flank.
Nadal appeared back in the groove in the second set, conceding a solitary point in his first three service games, but new balls re-energised Troicki and he began asking serious questions of the 14-time grand slam winner.
Having held off Troicki in game eight, Nadal’s next service game featured a wasted match point by his rival, opting against a volley when Nadal was out of position and finding the net off the ground.
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Nadal’s fans were in raucous mood again as their man forced a tie-break, but consecutive shots into the net gave Troicki immediate momentum and he pressed home his advantage, a string of booming forehands sealing an impressive triumph.