Thiem music stops Rafa juggernaut

King of clay stunned by upcoming Austrian

Rome: Only a couple of days back, there were discussions as to whether Rafael Nadal would be able to complete a ‘clay sweep’ by winning all the five tournaments including the French Open. The Spanish clay king was well on track having won the Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid titles and was well on course at the Italian Open tennis tournament here having beaten Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 in a late evening match played here Thursday.

However, Nadal’s aspirations received a rude jolt Friday here against Dominic Thiem. The Austrian produced some scintillating tennis here to stop Nadal’s 17-match winning juggernaut by defeating the fourth seed 6-4, 6-3 on the Rome clay and enter the semifinals.

Thiem was aggressive from the start taking the ball mid-court and hitting some brilliant winners on both sides of the court. Nadal, who was playing for his eight Italian Open title, found the going tough from the outset as Thiem broke him in the opening game of the match.

The Spaniard tried to hustle the Austrian, but Thiem again broke Nadal for a 5-2 lead in the first set. Nadal however, broke back and then held his serve to narrow the deficit to 4-5, but that was all that he could as Thiem closed out the set with two stinging passes.

May be the late evening match had taken a toll on the 30-plus Nadal as he continued to commit uncharacteristic errors in the second set also. However games went with serve till four-all, before Thiem took advantage of some half court shots from Nadal to break the Spaniard. He then had no difficulty in closing out the match to exact revenge for the losses he suffered against Nadal in the Barcelona and Madrid Open finals. There can be doubt that he will pose a major threat to Nadal at the French Open.     

Meanwhile in other quarterfinals played on the day, rising German star Alexander Zverev reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal with a 7-6(4) 6-1 defeat of World No. 6 Milos Raonic.

Zverev, 20, will face John Isner for a place in the final after the American edged out Croatian Marin Cilic 7-6(7-3), 2-6, 7-6(7-2). Isner served 21 aces on his way past Cilic as he became the first American to reach the semifinals here since Andy Roddick in 2008.

“It’s another stepping stone in my career,” Zverev told the ATP’s website. “I feel like I have played very well today. I returned very well. So I’m happy to be in the semis and playing John tomorrow (Saturday), who I know very well from our Saddlebrook (Florida) days. It’s going to be a great match.”


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