Rafael Nadal suffers defeat to Dominic Thiem at Rome Masters
By Sky Sports Tennis
Last Updated: 20/05/17 9:43am
Rafael Nadal lost his first match of the clay court season after Dominic Thiem produced an exceptional performance at the Rome Masters.
Thiem, who secured a 6-4 6-3 victory to move through to the semi-finals, was able to exact some form of revenge on Nadal who had beaten the Austrian world no 7 in both the Madrid and Barcelona finals.
Nadal, 30, a former seven-time champion in the Italian capital, is hoping to secure his 10th French Open title when the second major of the year begins later this month.
However, it was the 23-year-old Thiem who raced into a 5-1 lead against the world no 4, only for Nadal to reduce the deficit to 5-4 with a break of serve before Thiem closed the first set out 6-4.
The second set was a tighter affair from the start before Thiem earned a break for a 4-3 lead before holding his serve. With Nadal serving at 3-5, Thiem won four straight points and clinched his first match point when his opponent mis-hit a forehand wide.
Nadal, said he intends to have a free weekend before ramping up his preparations for Roland Garros from Monday.
"Tomorrow I'll be in Mallorca fishing or playing golf, or another thing. I'm going to rest a little bit, I think I deserve it," said Nadal.
"Then from Monday and Tuesday I will start to prepare for Roland Garros. It's an important event for me.
"If you do things well, you have more chances in Roland Garros. I hope to play my best tennis in Roland Garros."
Rafa's Grand Slam reign
He is without doubt the 'King of Clay' with nine titles at Roland Garros and 14 major titles, but the wait goes on.
Nadal, given a first round bye, played only three games of his second round match with Nicolas Almagro who retired injured on Wednesday before enjoying a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Jack Sock on Thursday.
However, the Austrian's serve, precision and movement soon had Nadal in trouble.
"I didn't play very well," added Nadal. "I want to congratulate him because he was better than me this afternoon.
"Great, in all aspects. He played long, he played very aggressive, hitting the ball very strong with high intensity.
"In general I was not able to push him back. He got a lot of points, maximum, more times than me. And that's the key of this game. It's obvious I didn't play my best match."
Nadal suggested the intensity of the clay court season that has seen him play his best tennis on the surface for the past two years had been to blame.
"I've been playing a lot. It's difficult, every day. Madrid then Rome back-to-back, after Barcelona.
"It's not easy playing every day for the last four weeks."
Alexander Zverev produced an accomplished display to overcome Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic 7-6 6-1 and set up a semi-final meeting with big-serving John Isner.
Zverev, who was playing Raonic for the first time in his career, twice squandered a break advantage in the first set before eventually sealing the first on a tie-break.
The German, who has two titles to his name in 2017, ran away with the second set securing two breaks of serve as the Canadian's challenge fell away.
The unseeded towering American Isner battled into the Rome Masters semi-finals on Friday with a 7-6 2-6 7-6 win over Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic.
Isner, ranked 24th in the world, reached the last eight on Thursday when he upset world no 3 Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 6-4.
In the final quarter-final of the day unseeded Argentinian Juan del Potro, who beat Britain's Kyle Edmund in the second round, faced former four-time champion and second seed Novak Djokovic in a game which was suspended due to rain.
Djokovic was leading 6-1, 1-2 when play was halted for the night.
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