Defending champion Rafael Nadal suffered his first career loss in Brazil Saturday losing in the semifinals of the Rio Open to Fabio Fognini 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Nadal, who had won 52 straight clay semifinals and was a perfect 17-0 in Brazil, had beaten the flamboyant Italian in all four prior meetings. And after taking the first set easily and holding a break lead in the second, there was little to think things would change.
But playing on short rest – Rafa finished his quarterfinal at 3:18am – Nadal dropped his play allowing Fognini back in the match. And it cost him in the end and Fognini broke the 9-time French Open champion to secure his first career Top 5 victory.
“I feel my tennis is close, closer than a month ago to the level I want to arrive again,” Nadal told the AP.
Last month it was Andreas Seppi pulling the upset over Roger Federer, now it was Fognini’s turn.
“I’m really happy about this match,” said Fognini. “I beat the best player on this surface.
“Rafa is always difficult. From the second set I played really well, and I tried to change a little bit to be more positive on court.
Fognini will test David Ferrer in the final. Ferrer blew past Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets.
“Right now I’m thinking in the now; that I’ve beaten Rafa,” said Fognini. “I’m super happy, and obviously tomorrow I will have to battle David, who has always beaten me.
“I will obviously be happy if I win. If I lose, I will also leave with the good memories from this week in Rio.”
In Marseille, the French will be in a frenzy as Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon battle for the title. Monfils beat Roberta Bautista Agut while Simon took out Sergiy Stakhovsky in three sets.
Simon leads Monfils 4-1 winning their last two including a memorable victory at the 2013 Australian Open.
In Delray Beach, Donald Young edged Bernard Tomic in three to reach the final where he’ll meet Ivo Karlovic after the Croat beat Adrian Mannarino.
“It’s tough to get to the finals; it’s not something you do every day,” said Young who after an illustrious junior career is still seeking his first pro title. “There have been other things that I felt were holding me back. It wasn’t just my game, it was about the consistency, the mental part and putting together back-to-back matches. I’m happy I’m able to do that lately.
“All you can do is put yourself in these positions and hopefully you can walk through the door. I haven’t been here often,” he added. “I’ve kind of been around and seen a bunch of people and talked to people who have won, and hopefully I can draw on some of that information and strength and we’ll see. Hopefully I can get my first one. I’m really excited to have the chance to compete for one.”
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