Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Thiem ends Nadal’s magical clay streak

DEJA VU:The last time Nadal lost on clay was 21 matches and 357 days ago, to the same man, leaving Federer to reclaim the No. 1 title and Thiem to face Kevin Anderson

AFP, MADRID

Dominic Thiem returns to Rafael Nadal during their Madrid Open quarter-final on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Rafael Nadal suffered his first clay-court defeat in almost a year on Friday, when the world No. 1 was shocked 7-5, 6-3 by Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals.

Defending champion Nadal, who came into the tournament having won at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, also saw his record 50-set winning streak on clay ended by fifth seed Thiem.

Thiem, the runner-up to the great Spaniard in last year’s Madrid final, had been the last player to defeat Nadal on clay at the Italian Open in Rome — 357 days ago.

The result also means that Roger Federer is to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking on tomorrow.

“A player like Dominic has a lot of potential. Whenever he plays really well, it’s very difficult to stop him,” Nadal said.

Five-time Madrid winner Nadal, who will be bidding for an 11th French Open title in Paris later this month, had won his previous 21 matches on clay.

That run included him surpassing John McEnroe’s 1984 record of 49 sets won in succession on the same surface during his last-16 duel with Diego Schwartzman on Thursday.

However, in their ninth career clash, Thiem put Nadal under pressure almost from the start and broke for a 4-3 lead in the first set.

A double fault and a long forehand allowed Nadal to retrieve the break at 5-5.

It was a brief reprieve as a lazy forehand volley gave Thiem a 6-5 advantage and the set came the Austrian’s way in the 12th game off an ace.

Thiem turned the screw for a 3-1 lead in the second set, but Nadal battled back to 3-3.

That was as good as it got for the Spaniard, as Thiem broke again for 4-3, held to love for 5-3 and secured victory with another blistering forehand.

Thiem, who next faces South Africa’s Kevin Anderson for a place in today’s final, joins Novak Djokovic and Gaston Gaudio as just the third man to have beaten Nadal three times on clay.

“It takes a really good match to beat Rafa on clay, but I think a very important thing also was today that I went in with the attitude that I can beat him,” Thiem said.

World No. 8 Anderson battled into his first Masters semi-final with a 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 win over Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov became the youngest player to reach the Madrid semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-7 (6/8) 6-4 win over Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

The 19-year-old Shapovalov, ranked at 43 in the world, fired 29 winners past Edmund, a surprise semi-finalist at the Australian Open in January.

Shapovalov, who had never won a clay-court match on the main tour before Madrid, will be playing in his second Masters semi-final, where he was yesterday to face German second seed Alexander Zverev.

Zverev defeated John Isner 6-4, 7-5 to gain revenge for his defeat to the American in the Miami Masters final last month.

Zverev has now reached five Masters semi-finals in the past year.

In the women’s singles, Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens continued her remarkable run by thrashing French seventh seed Caroline Garcia to reach the final.

The world No. 20 will face Petra Kvitova after brushing aside Garcia 6-2, 6-2.

Two-time Madrid champion Kvitova reached the final with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over Czech compatriot Karolina Pliskova.

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