The last man to beat Rafael Nadal did it again Friday in Madrid as Dominic Thiem stunned Rafa in front of his home fans in emphatic fashion 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal entered the affair having won 21 straight matches on clay with 50 sets in a row. But Thiem, who beat Nadal in Rome last year, was able to stick around in the first then capitalized on two Nadal doubles faults to take the set lead.
In the second, Thiem continued to hammer away at Rafa, but couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead. But at 3-all he got back into rhythm and got the job done.
“Of course, I’m upset,” said Nadal. “I tried to come back. I tried to do it a couple of times, but I wasn’t good enough today. He was better than me today, that’s the end of the story. Some days you don’t play as well as you’d like to play. Also, when that happens, it’s because your opponent is doing really well. I just want to congratulate him, that’s all.
“I think that today I didn’t read the ball well enough to be able to handle the situation, to put him into places where he didn’t feel comfortable. I was not good enough with my forehand or my backhand to open up to his forehand.”
For Thiem, it was his third career win over Nadal and puts him into his first Masters semi since Rome, and first European clay semi since the French.
“I had to play an extraordinary match, and that’s what I did,” said Thiem. “It takes a really good match to beat Rafa on clay, but I think a very important thing was that I went in with the attitude that I can beat him. Obviously, two weeks ago in Monte-Carlo, he killed me love and two. It was very important I went into the match with a positive attitude, with an attitude to win.
“I moved well [and] I was physically tough. But always against him, there are long rallies. You get out of breath. My groundstrokes were the best, they were very aggressive. I think I really hurt him with them… I didn’t make too many stupid errors. That was important.”
Thiem will take on South African big man Kevin Anderson who finally broke his duck and made his first Masters semifinal. Anderson came into his match against qualifier Dusan Lajovic having lost 10 straight Masters quarterfinal matches, but came up with the goods in a 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 victory.
“I must be honest, I think I did a good job then because I didn’t really think of it too much [of my 0-10 record in Masters 1000 quarter-finals],” said Anderson. “I had lots of reason to think about it. Indian Wells and Miami, not that long ago. Two 7-6s in the third [set], to fall a bit short, [including] match points against [Pablo] Carreno Busta in Miami.
“Of course, I knew the opportunity existed today. I thought first step was putting myself in that position. I was able to do that. Going out there today, I just really focused on what I needed to do. Thinking too much about previous results is not going to do me too much good, outside of the fact that, sure, there was motivation to get through. I really wanted to break through and be in the semi-finals. It was a goal that I set myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m done. It definitely feels good. It was a mini goal accomplished for me today.”
Anderson also is up on Thiem 6-0 but this is their first meeting on clay.
Alexander Zverev upped his win streak to seven after gaining revenge on John Isner 6-4, 7-5. Isner had beaten the German in the Miami final last month.
“Yeah I returned much better to start with, which is very important against John,” Zverev said. “I found I was very happy with how I played from the baseline, returning serving, so all in all it was a good performance.”
Zverev will take on a fellow young star in Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian got the better of Kyle Edmund in a tough Denis Shapovalov, who advanced to his second Masters 1000 semi-final by beating British No. 1 Kyle Edmund 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-4 victory.
“We have a really, really similar gamestyle. We both go big on the serves. We both love to dictate with the forehands. It’s tricky to play Kyle. When he’s on, I’m not seeing the ball at all,” Shapovalov said. “I feel like every time we play, we have a thriller match. It’s fun to be on the court with him.”
Zverev beat Shapovalov in the Canadian semifinals last summer.
“Yeah great tennis, obviously it’s going to be a very tough match but I’m ready for it,” Zverev said of the Canadian. “I feel pretty good and hopefully it’ll be another entertaining match like it was in Montreal.”
None of the four semifinalist have won Madrid before. Thiem made the finals last year.
SATURDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
Manolo Santana Starts At 1:30 Pm / WTA – Doubles Final
F 1 Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina VS 3 Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic
Not Before 4:00 Pm
SF 5 Dominic Thiem VS 6 Kevin Anderson
Not Before 6:30 Pm / WTA – Singles Final
F 10 Petra Kvitova VS Kiki Bertens
Not Before 9:00 Pm
SF Denis Shapovalov VS 2 Alexander Zverev
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