Madrid, May 9 (EFE).- Roger Federer came up well short in his bid to defend his title at the Mutua Madrid Open, losing 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in Thursday's third round to Japan's Kei Nishikori.
The Swiss great, who had not played a tournament since mid-March at Indian Wells on hard court, was noticeably rusty during the one-hour, 35-minute match and largely beat himself with unforced errors from the baseline.
Federer, the world No. 2, won more overall points but lost most of the important ones, saving only one of the four break points he faced for the match and converting just two of the seven chances he had to break Nishikori's serve.
"He was my idol. Actually, to beat him, that was one of my goals for my tennis career," the 23-year-old Nishikori said of Federer, who holds a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles. "It happens on clay and it's amazing. It's not really my favorite surface."
Nishikori's win was the second by a young player in this tournament over a top seed, after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov's upset of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Tuesday second-round action.
The Japanese world No. 16 will next take on Spain's Pablo Andujar, who advanced when countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver retired at 5-5 in the first set, in Friday's quarterfinals.
In other action Thursday in the men's draw, Spain's Rafael Nadal cruised into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Russia's Mikhail Youzhny and will next take on countryman David Ferrer, who rallied from down a break in the third set to defeat Germany's Tommy Haas 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
Also advancing to the quarterfinals was Tomas Berdych, a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 winner over South Africa's Kevin Anderson. The Czech will next take on either Scotland's Andy Murray or Frenchman Gilles Simon, whose round of 16 match spilled over into the wee hours of Friday.
In another quarterfinal, France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner over Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the third round, will square off against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, who rallied to defeat Dimitrov 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In the women's draw, Russia's Maria Sharapova continued her outstanding recent play on clay courts, reaching the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals with a 6-2, 7-5 victory Thursday afternoon over Germany's Sabine Lisicki.
Sharapova was down two set points in the second set but managed to stave them off and then take the match in one hour and 42 minutes.
American Serena Williams, the No. 1 seed, also advanced to the quarterfinals on Thursday with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Russia's Maria Kirilenko.
The Mutua Madrid Open is one of the biggest clay-court events on the ATP and WTA calendars and a key tune-up for the French Open, which gets underway later this month.