Nadal's record run on clay ends in Madrid quarters

Nadal's record run on clay ends in Madrid quarters

It was a double whammy for Rafael Nadal on Friday. Switzerland's Roger Federer takes over at No. 1, but Nadal can reclaim the crown if he wins the title in Rome in his next event.

But Nadal could not maintain his form and went down 7-5 6-3 to the Austrian world number seven, who broke his opponent's serve five times in the two-hour match.

In his steely focus, Nadal said he did not give much attention to records, which would be references after his playing days.

Defending champion Nadal came into the tournament having won both Monte Carlo and Barcelona for the 11th time, witnessed his record 50-set winning streak on clay brought to an end by the fifth-seeded Thiem.

"From there on, it's difficult to harm a player like him because he's a very powerful player, he has a lot of strength, he strikes the ball very hard, very violently".

Describing Thiem as "one of the best players in the world", Nadal admitted that the Austrian player performed exceedingly well while he was never in a good position throughout the match. Thiem ironically was the last man to beat Nadal on clay, in Rome last year, and is now the man who prevented him from going a year unbeaten, without dropping a set, on his favourite surface.

Nadal's straight-sets victory means he establishes a new Open era best for consecutive sets won on a single surface, passing McEnroe's 49 on carpet in 1984.

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"I had to really increase my level compared to Monte-Carlo to beat Rafa here". So I had to play an extraordinary match, and that's what I did.

"To be honest, I thought also myself that I was pretty far away before this week started". I still have two good weeks on clay, and then I'll keep on moving forward.

"I think a very important thing also was today that I went in with the attitude that I can beat him".

He will play the victor of the semi-final between Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev in Sunday's final. A year ago I made it to the finals in every single tournament.

Thiem will face sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson in the semifinals after he hit 15 aces to down Dusan Lajovic, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.

Shapovalov, 19, ranked at 43 in the world, fired 29 winners past Edmund, a surprise semi-finalist at the Australian Open in January.

Later Saturday, Zverev will be playing in his third straight Masters semi-final.

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