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Rafael Nadal was beaten on clay for the first time this year at the 2017 Italian Open, as Dominic Thiem produced a brilliant performance to overcome the Spaniard in straight sets on Friday.
Having lost to Nadal recently in the final of the Madrid Open, the eighth seed was by far the superior player in this quarter-final encounter, getting stuck into an inconsistent Nadal serve to win 6-4, 6-3.
Milos Raonic, seeded fifth, and Marin Cilic, seeded sixth, are also out of the tournament, as they were beaten by Alexander Zverev and John Isner, respectively.
The first two players through to the semis in the women’s draw were Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep, as they each secured comfortable, straight-set wins.
Later in the day, second seed Novak Djokovic will be in action against Juan Martin del Potro, with the winner to face Thiem, while Garbine Muguruza faces Venus Williams in another standout encounter.
Here are the results so far from Rome, the matches still to come and a recap of some of Friday’s best moments.
|Italian Open 2017: Quarter-Finals|
|(8) Dominic Thiem bt. (4) Rafael Nadal||6-4, 6-3|
|(16) Alexander Zverev bt. (5) Milos Raonic||7-6 (4), 6-1|
|Josh Isner bt. (6) Marin Cilic||7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (2)|
|(2) Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Martin del Potro||TBC|
|(6) Simona Halep bt. Anett Kontaveit||6-2, 6-4|
|(16) Kiki Bertens bt. Daria Gavrilova||6-3, 6-3|
|(8) Elina Svitolina bt. (2) Karolina Pliskova|
|(9) Venus Willliams vs. Garbine Muguruza|
The early stages of Nadal’s match with Thiem were the most sluggish he has looked on clay for a long time.
Gareth Copley/Getty Images
The fourth seed struggled to slip into a groove, allowing the Austrian to grab a break and then another to move 4-1 and then 5-1 up in the set. In fairness to Nadal, he did rally in the second part of the stanza, breaking to cut the deficit to 5-4.
But the 23-year-old remained composed and was able to serve it out at the second time of asking.
Per Stuart Fraser of The Times, taking a set off Nadal on this surface is not easy:
Stuart Fraser @stu_fraser
Rafael Nadal drops only his third set in 18 matches on clay this year as Dominic Thiem takes it 6-4. Edmund and Fognini the others…
5/19/2017, 3:08:17 PM
Nadal would have expected to kick on having found a foothold at the end of the first set, although he was unable to get past the Thiem serve in the second. Eventually, it was the younger man who grabbed a decisive break to go 4-3 up.
As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times noted, the Spaniard’s immaculate record on clay in 2017 was beginning to look in serious danger:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Dominic Thiem now up a set and a break on Rafael Nadal, 6-4, *4-3.
Nadal is 17-0 on clay so far this year, but that 0 is in some jeopardy.
5/19/2017, 3:56:12 PM
Nadal tried to battle back immediately and had a couple of break points in the next game. But Thiem showed immense mental strength to save them, putting himself one game away.
He didn’t have to go through the pressure of serving it out, either, as another break of serve was enough to earn the Austrian one of the biggest wins of his career.
It means there are some unfamiliar faces set to line up in the final four, as Raonic and Cilic—two genuine contenders for the title—were also dumped out on Friday. Their respective conquerers, Zverev and Isner, will face one another in the semi-finals.
Earlier in the day, Halep continued her fine form at the Italian Open with a confident triumph over Anett Kontaveit, who had previously eliminated top seed Angelique Kerber. Bertens will be her opponent in the semis, having beaten Daria Gavrilova with ease.