Rafa Nadal's clay-court streak ended by Dominic Thiem in Italian Open quarterfinals

For the first time in four tournaments, Rafa Nadal will not hold the trophy at the end of the week.
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

For the first time in four tournaments, Rafa Nadal will not hold the trophy at the end of the week.

Rafael Nadal's winning streak ended at 17 matches as he lost in straight sets to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open on Friday (Saturday NZ Time).

The 6-4 6-3 victory was a sort of revenge for Thiem, who was beaten by the Spaniard in the Madrid Open final last week.

"Of course I came in with a very aggressive game style, because I knew that if I want to have a chance, then I have to do something different and be more aggressive," Thiem said. "I knew that if it goes in, everything, maybe I have a chance. If not, maybe I also lose easy.

Austrian Dominic Thiem ended Rafa Nadal's clay-court winning streak at 17 matches with a straight sets victory.
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

Austrian Dominic Thiem ended Rafa Nadal's clay-court winning streak at 17 matches with a straight sets victory.

"But today was one of these days where I really felt the ball great on the racquet, and a lot of risky shots went in. It was a very, very good performance and I think probably one of my best matches."

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The 30-year-old Nadal, who was seeded fourth, had won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid and was aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open in less than two weeks.

"I just have to congratulate (Thiem), because he was better than me this afternoon," Nadal said. "He played great in all aspects. Just well done for him.

"It's obvious that I did not play my best match. I have been playing a lot ... so is not easy after playing almost every day for the last four weeks," he said.

Thiem, the No 8 seed, will face four-time champion Novak Djokovic or Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals.

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The 23-year-old Austrian dominated from the start, racing into a 5-1 lead. Nadal recovered and broke back to cut the gap to 5-4 but Thiem needed just one of his two set points when Nadal's backhand down the line landed just wide.

Thiem almost broke again early in the second set but Nadal managed to save two break points and go on to hold his serve.

However, Thiem took advantage on his opponent's next service game, putting in several delightful returns which had the audience on their feet before closing the game with a crosscourt forehand.

Thiem almost allowed Nadal back into the match but managed to cancel out three break points to go into a 5-3 lead and he broke again to take the match when Nadal sent a forehand long.

The other semifinal pits John Isner against No 16 seed Alexander Zverev.

The unseeded Isner, who hit 21 aces, beat sixth-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (3) 2-6 7-6 (2) in a serve-dominated quarterfinal to become the first American to reach the last four at the Italian Open since Andy Roddick in 2008.

ZVEREV GIVES RAONIC A LESSON

Rising German star Zverev beat fifth seed, world No 6 and 2014 semifinalist Milos Raonic 7-6 (1) 6-1 to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal.

"It's another stepping stone in my career," Zverev told the ATP's website. "I feel like I have played very well today. I returned very well.

"So I'm happy to be in the semis and playing John tomorrow, who I know very well from our Saddlebrook (Florida) days. It's going to be a great match."

In his first meeting with Raonic, Zverev twice let a break slip in the opening set, on the second occasion failing to serve out the set at 6-5. But in windy conditions he comfortably won the tiebreak and sped through the second set.

In the women's draw, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic lost 6-3 7-6 (9) to No 8 seed Elina Svitolina.

It was the Ukrainian's first victory over Pliskova in five meetings and set up a semifinal against Venus Williams, seeded ninth, or third seed Garbine Muguruza.

Anett Kontaveit's dream debut ended as the Estonian qualifier lost 6-2 6-4 to Madrid Open champion Simona Halep.

The 21-year-old Kontaveit, who beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber in the second round, saved two break points before succumbing to Halep's clay-court prowess.

The Romanian, who is seeded sixth, next faces Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands after the 15th seed beat Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova 6-3 6-3.

- AP, Reuters

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