By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Dominic Thiem  def. Rafael Nadal  7-5 6-3
- Day after Nadal sets new record for longest winning streak on a single surface, he will lose the No. 1 spot to Roger Federer next week
- Thiem will face Kevin Anderson in the semi-final
MADRID, SPAIN – World No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal was dumped out of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open Masters in straight sets by Dominic Thiem.
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Dominic Thiem  def. Rafael Nadal  7-5 6-3
Coming into this match, it had been clear that Dominic Thiem was still trying to regain the type of form that had marked him out to be a contender for the big titles last year. An Ankle injury that caused him to retire from this third-round match in Indian Wells and withdraw from Miami kept him off the court until the Monte Carlo Masters.
There he weathered an epic three-setter against Novak Djokovic before bowing out in a tame fashion to eventual champion Rafael Nadal and backed hat up with another quarter-final run in Barcelona, before coming to Madrid, where he lost to Nadal in the final last year.
His progress this week has been sketchy too – twice coming from a set down to prevail. On Friday, though, it was a different story. From the beginning of the match he was banging on the door, having two break points in the opening game before getting his breakthrough for a lead.
Nadal predictably pegged the Austrian back, but this time there was no capitulation from Thiem, breaking back immediately before closing out the first set.
Thiem claimed first blood at the start of the second set, and again Nadal pulled things level, but once more Thiem struck back with an immediate break back, before breaking Nadal for his spot in the semi-final for the second year in a row.
Nadal had made no bones throughout the week as the frenzy surrounding the longest set streak approached, that he had no interest at all in such things, and now with that streak ended quite emphatically, it was time to look ahead.
He said: “Of course, yes, I’m upset. I tried to come back. I tried to do it. I tried to do it a couple of times. But I haven’t been good enough today. He was better than me today.
“Three weeks ago, I beat him 6-0, 6-2. I don’t know if that’s a tough player or not. I don’t think it’s that way. I think it’s just been a match that he was better than me, same as a few weeks ago I was better than him.
“If he beats me three times in a row, maybe we can say he reads my game and can beat me.”
Thiem acknowledged that perhaps the power of more positive thinking was key and not just his matches against Nadal.
He said: “I think I was playing a little bit better today than in Monte-Carlo. Of course, it’s great conditions here for me in Madrid. I love to play here. I mean, there is a reason why I did my first Masters finals here last year. It’s great to play here for me.
“But in the same time, of course, I had to really increase my level compared to Monte-Carlo to beat Rafa here. He’s in a really great form. He won 21 matches on clay and 50 sets. This is amazing. So, I had to play an extraordinary match, and that’s what I did.
“Obviously two weeks ago in Monte-Carlo, he killed me Love and 2. It was very important I went in with a positive attitude, with an attitude to win. Like this I should go in every match against him. Also in maybe the next upcoming tournaments.”
Earlier in the day No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson beat Dusan Lajovic, who had ousted the much-fancied Juan Martin Del Potro. Anderson was 0-10 in Masters quarter-finals coming into the match, on a surface that is perhaps not his best (statistically) even if he does enjoy playing on it.”
Anderson said: “I’ve said for many years, I’ve really enjoyed playing on the clay. Obviously, the movement’s a little bit tougher. But I think a lot of the surface actually suits my game nicely. The ball usually kicks up a little bit more. I think it helps my serve, gives me a little bit more time from the baseline.
“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-inals. It was a goal that I set myself. By no means that means that I’m done. It definitely feels good. It was a mini goal accomplished for me today.”
Thiem and Anderson are scheduled to play the semi-final on Court Manolo Santana, not before 4pm (3pm BST).
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