Rafael Nadal, who had set the record of winning 50 consecutive sets on clay in the previous round, was defeated by Dominic Thiem and was knocked out in the quarter finals of the Madrid Open. Nadal's early exit in Madrid means that Roger Federer will now replace him as the new World No 1.
Prior to this match against Dominic Thiem, Nadal had won a record 50 consecutive sets on clay and looked in inspired form. But the remarkable streak was brought to an end by Thiem, who refused to let the momentum slip after winning the first set 7-5. Thiem then, followed the first set win by brilliance in the second set and won the match 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal had to save two break points in the first set, but Thiem was quick to latch on the vulnerability that emerged in the seventh game. A routine forehand was sent into the net to hand Thiem a break point, which he took courtesy of a fierce forehand that Nadal couldn’t handle.
Nadal followed up with an uncharacteristically sloppy service and Thiem took the advantage as the as Spaniard failed to clear the net with a point-blank forehand. Thiem held his nerves to win the first set and then, came back stronger in the second set.
Nadal staved off four break points in the third game, but surviving a fifth proved beyond him, an off-balance forehand leaving him trailing once more. Thiem fought back from 15-40 down in the next game, thanks to a magnificent drop-volley and an unreturnable serve, only to then allow Nadal to level at 3-3.
Then, Nadal fired long off his backhand side to once more go a break behind and there was no chance given by Thiem as a cross-court forehand wrapped up the contest. Thiem’s excellent performance served as a reminder that the King of Clay is indeed beatable on clay.
Thiem will now face South African Kevin Anderson in the semi-finals, while Nadal will lose his world No 1 spot to Federer when the rankings are released on Monday, despite the Swiss star taking a break from clay open. Nadal had to win the Madrid Open to stay on the top, but Thiem made sure it didn’t happen.
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