For the second straight week, Rafael Nadal’s bid for a 12th title at a single event fell short. Today, Nadal was handed his first career loss in a semifinal of the Barcelona event after getting stunned by Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal, who fell to Fabio Fognini at this stage just seven days ago in Monte Carlo, still hasn’t been able to find his form, and Saturday, Thiem took advantage.
The Austrian was playing near perfect tennis, mixing his bludgeoning baseline game with deft drop shots. And he never faced a break point all match until his final service game in which he got out of a 0-40 hole.
“I’m always super proud if I beat him because he’s the best player ever on this surface, and it’s always very special to beat him here on clay. We always had great matches in the past, and also today was very good and I was more lucky today and I got the win,” Thiem said.
Nadal had won his last 18 matches in Barcelona, and was 11-0 in the semifinals at the event.
“He played great. He did all the things that he had to do very well and with big success. I am happy the way that I played from the baseline. Starting the point in good position or in bad position, changed a lot… but the rest of the things have been positive and as I said before, congrats to him, he played great,” Nadal said. “He’s a great guy and great player and I’m happy for him. I wish him all the best.
“The serve [was] an important part of the match this afternoon,” Nadal added. “I didn’t serve well at all, especially the second serve. So when I started to miss the second serve, I really lost a little bit of the confidence on trying to go for a good first serve, because I was without confidence on the second, so that affects the first.”
Nadal will now head into May with a clay title or any title on the year for the first time since 2004. And he’s now lost to Thiem each of the last four years on the dirt, though Rafa still came up big in Paris the last two years. And he’s not panicking.
“After this week my confidence is back,” Nadal said. “I really believe that I made very good improvements to create a good base to try to achieve my goals during the next couple of weeks.”
In the final, Thiem will meet Daniil Medvedev who kept his great season going coming from a break down in the third to beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
“He was up a break in the third and I felt that I lost the momentum. The match was going away from me,” Medvedev said. “I’m really happy that I managed to hold my nerves, to try to come back, and I managed to come back. I’m just happy to be in the final.”
Thiem won their only meeting last year in St. Petersburg.
“It’s such a traditional tournament. I loved to play the finals here two years ago, and of course I try to go one step further tomorrow,” Thiem said. “But Daniil is I think in the best shape of his life. If I see the names of who won here, this tournament, of course I would love to be there as well.”
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