Defending champion Rafael Nadal was upset by German qualifier Michael Berrer 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the first round of the Qatar Open in Doha.
This was Nadal’s first match since losing in the Basel quarterfinals to 17-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia in October. The Spaniard spent much of the autumn recovering from an appendectomy on November 3.
“These things happen after long time without being on the road, being on rhythm, being in competition,” Nadal said. “I was playing with more nerves because after long time [away] I wanted to win.
“When you are back from an injury, that takes time.”
Nadal also was sidelined for three months with a right wrist injury after Wimbledon. He briefly returned to the game at Beijing in late September and reached the quarter-finals. The following week in Shanghai, he lost in the opening round to compatriot Feliciano Lopez.
Nadal had three break points on Berrer’s serve in the final game but couldn’t convert on those opportunities to draw the third set even at 5-5.
Despite the disappointing loss, Nadal expects to get back on track once he starts playing more matches.
“I’m going to work hard to try to make it less tough as possible,” he said. “My motivation and my hunger to keep doing things well is still the same.
“So I am sure that I’m gonna come back to my best. I hope to be soon.”
The 127th-ranked Berrer broke Nadal to go ahead 3-1 in the second set and in the first game of the third set.
Berrer had never before beaten a top-five player. The 34-year-old father of two has already announced he is retiring at the end of the year.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Berrer told the crowd after his win. “It’s my last season, so I’m just going for it. Why not?”
Nadal had won their previous two matches with ease, never dropping more than three games in either match.
There were no such problems for Novak Djokovic, who started his 2015 season with a swift 6-2 6-1 win over fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic.
Djokovic needed just 59 minutes to see off his compatriot, putting 72 percent of his first serves in play and succeeding with five of six break-point opportunities.
The world No.1 is making his first appearance at the Doha tournament. Historically, he hasn’t played a sanctioned tournament in the first week of the year.
Djokovic withdrew from the Abu Dhabi exhibition final last week with the flu – handing victory to Andy Murray – but showed no lingering signs of illness against Lajovic.
Third-seeded Tomas Berdych also advanced to the second round with a 6-1 6-4 win over Denis Istomin, while fourth seed David Ferrer needed more than two hours to see off qualifier Thiemo de Bakker 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3.
Also on the receiving end of an upset was fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, who went down to compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(3) 4-6 6-1, while Mikhail Youzhny was beaten by qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5 6-2.
Eighth seed Leonardo Mayer is also out, beaten 5-7 7-6(4) 7-6(4) by Andreas Seppi.
Read more at ESPN