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Rafael Nadal's Hold On No. 1 Loosens In Clay

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is under pressure to hold on the No. 1 ranking against Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal loosened his grip on the World No. 1 ranking after a 7-6(1), 6-4 loss to David Ferrer in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters fourth round on Friday. Not far behind is rival Novak Djokovic, giving chase.

For the entire clay swing, the 27-year-old Nadal is defending 5,100 points, compared to Djokovic's 1,910. The World No. 2 currently trails Nadal by 2,050 points in the 52-week Emirates ATP Rankings, putting him within reach of regaining the No. 1 ranking before the end of Roland Garros.

Nadal earned trophies in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros in 2013. In that same stretch, Djokovic triumphed in Monte-Carlo and reached the Roland Garros semi-finals, but bowed out in the Madrid second round and lost in the Rome quarter-finals.

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Nadal, a 26-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 champion, has compiled an impressive 23-4 record since the beginning of the year, picking up trophies in Doha and Rio and reaching finals at the Australian Open and in Miami.

The eight-time Monte-Carlo champion doled out 44 unforced errors in Friday's quarter-final against Ferrer, an uncharacteristic display on the surface, where he holds a .934 FedEx ATP Win/Loss Index.

“Normally... I'm playing with no mistakes," said Nadal. "This is something I was not able to do. [Ferrer] did much better than me.

“I am not happy with [my game]. I feel that I have to do more than what I did today,” reflected Nadal about his third loss at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

Djokovic, who went winless in January and February won back-to-back Masters 1000 titles from Indian Wells and Miami. When Djokovic last achieved this feat, in 2011, he ended the season with 10 titles and claimed the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking from Nadal in the process.

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