Rome: Roger Federer's preparation for the French Open has taken a hit with a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) loss to Richard Gasquet in the third round of the Italian Open.
Federer had won his last eight matches against Gasquet but he made uncharacteristic errors from the baseline on Thursday and the 16th-seeded Frenchman took control.
Earlier, Rafael Nadal overcame a virus to beat fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-2. The start of the match was delayed by about 20 minutes because Nadal considered withdrawing.
"I had a fever last night and this morning I didn't feel better," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to go on the court for the match. I decided at the last moment."
To keep his No. 1 ranking for at least one more week, Nadal will need to beat American Mardy Fish or Marin Cilic of Croatia in the quarterfinals. Otherwise, Novak Djokovic could claim the top spot by winning the tournament.
In his opening match on Wednesday, Nadal struggled past 148th-ranked qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-0. That marked the third consecutive match in which Nadal dropped the first set, having also rallied to beat Roger Federer in the Madrid Open semifinals before losing in straight sets to Djokovic in Sunday's final.
"I didn't understand why I felt so slow yesterday, why I had no energy. I understand today," Nadal said.
This is Nadal's fourth tournament of the clay season, having won titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona before losing in Madrid. He said he doesn't know whether his grueling schedule may be wearing him down.
"That's something that's impossible to control," he said. "Usually I don't have this type of virus or fever and this is the second time this year."
Nadal said his health could also be affected by his constant travel.
"That's not positive for the body. That's probably what's happening," he said.
The tournament is an important warmup for the French Open, which starts in 10 days. Nadal believes he'll be better by the time he gets back to Paris.
"I don't see why I won't be in perfect condition in one week and a half," he said.
Against Lopez, Nadal got out to an early lead in the first set, but then handed Lopez back a break to make it 4-3 by missing a routine forehand into the net. Lopez then held at love as Nadal didn't even attempt to run down one shot that appeared within reach.
Fortunately for Nadal, the 40th-ranked Lopez was not sharp either, and made three consecutive errors before Nadal landed a backhand crosscourt passing shot to break again and win the first set.
Nadal broke midway through the second set to take control for good.
In women's action on a cloudless day at the Foro Italico, defending French Open champion Francesca Schiavone got her home crowd going by rallying to beat Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Schiavone is ranked a career-high fourth but is seeded higher this week since No. 2 Kim Clijsters is injured and No. 3 Vera Zvonareva didn't enter. With Serena and Venus Williams also out injured, local fans are hoping Schiavone can become the first Italian to win at the Foro Italico since Raffaella Reggi in 1985.
After Schiavone chased down a drop shot and landed a winner up the line to secure the victory, organisers blasted the old Neapolitan folk song "O surdato 'nnammurato" over the loudspeakers and nearly all of the 10,500 fans in attendance sang along.
Schiavone will next face Sam Stosur in a rematch of last year's Roland Garros final.
The sixth-seeded Stosur beat Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-4.
This tournament is a key warmup for Roland Garros, which starts in 10 days. It is one of only three Masters Series events Federer has never won.
Also, Australian Open runner-up Li Na of China rolled past Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-2, 6-1 and two-time champion Jelena Jankovic edged Spanish qualifier Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.