By Jennifer Knapp, in Barcelona
- Dominic Thiem  def. Rafael Nadal  6-4, 6-4
- Nadal has lost two consecutive semi-finals on clay for the first time in his career
BARCELONA, SPAIN – Dominic Thiem continues recent dominance of Rafael Nadal on clay, as the Roland Garros champion’s lead in to the defence of his title falters again.
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For the second week in a row, world number two Rafael Nadal has fallen in the semifinals of a clay-court tournament he has dominated for more than a decade. Austrian Dominic Thiem, the world number 3, defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Saturday, becoming the first player other than Novak Djokovic to defeat the Spaniard on clay four times.
Saturday’s win was the fourth time in as many years Thiem has beaten Nadal on clay, and the first time Nadal has lost in the semi-finals or finals of his home tournament. The Spaniard had been 22-0 in matches and 46-1 in sets during Barcelona semi-finals and finals.
The Spaniard struggled on serve early on, hitting four double faults in his opening three service games but it was the fourth time that was the charm for Thiem as he converted it for the first and only break in the first set.
The Austrian, the only player to beat Nadal on clay in 2017 and 2018, was in attack mode throughout the match, delivering deep heavy balls to Nadal who struggled to take control in baseline rallies. Thiem also dominated at the net, winning nine of 12 points.
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Nadal appeared to be mounting a comeback by jumping to 0-40 lead at 4-5, his only breakpoint chances in the entire match, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be as Thiem dug deep to erase the lead and close out the match against the clay court legend.
“There are losses that help you, and this was one of them,” said Nadal, who had been aiming for a fourth consecutive title in Barcelona.”
Despite the loss, Nadal appeared to be more confident about his clay court play than in previous interviews.
“Considering the way I played, it has been quite a while since I felt this good on clay,” he said. “Of my last eight matches this is the first one where I have left that I am playing at the level I need to be at, to be able to play relaxed and with the necessary energy.”
Nadal said he will continue to train hard in the coming weeks with Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros on his schedule. Meanwhile, Thiem will meet the seventh seed, Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final as the Russian beat the number four seed and former champion, Kei Nishikori of Japan, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Play continues at ATP Barcelona at 1:00pm Sunday (12:00 BST).
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