Nadal Drops to Fourth, Passed by Murray, as Djokovic Stays Top

Rafael Nadal dropped to fourth in the men’s tennis rankings after a rare defeat for the Spaniard on clay while Novak Djokovic remained the world’s top-ranked male player.

Nadal, a 14-time major champion, was beaten by Italy’s Fabio Fognini in three sets at the Rio Open on Saturday. The nine-time French Open winner’s semifinal loss on clay in 12 years came after he wrapped up his previous match at 3:18 a.m. the same morning.

Even though he has had a difficult start to the season, losing to German veteran Michael Berrer in the first round of Doha before ending a 17-match win streak against Czech Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open quarterfinals last month, Nadal was optimistic.

“I’m working well, I have the right attitude, I have to improve things and I think that I’m on the right path and closer to the level of game that I’m looking for,” Nadal, 28, said in a news conference in Rio.

Britain’s Andy Murray passed Nadal to take the No. 3 spot, with Djokovic keeping the top spot and Switzerland’s Roger Federer in second.

After winning two majors and finishing the 2013 season as the top-ranked player, Nadal’s 2014 was difficult by comparison.

He injured his back during his Australian Open finals defeat to Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, only to rebound and win a ninth Roland Garros title in June. After losing to Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in the last sixteen at Wimbledon, Nadal struggled with injury and illness which forced him to miss his U.S. Open title defense.

Nadal will play in the Argentina Open this week, while Serbia’s Djokovic, Murray and Federer are competing in the Dubai Duty Free Championships.

Serena Williams of the U.S. remains the top-ranked female tennis player, ahead of Maria Sharapova of Russia at No. 2 and Romania’s Simona Halep at No. 3.

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