So, Rafael Nadal is out of the Rome Masters and with it goes his 17-match winning streak.
The Spanish World No. 4 and ‘The King of Clay’ lost 6-4 6-3 to crash out of the quarter-finals, leaving him with something to think about with the French Open just nine days away.
Dominic Thiem had everything to fear going into this match, having lost twice in his previous two attempts to overcome the Spaniard, including the final in Madrid last week and the Barcelona Open in April.
Nadal’s tour title tally now sits at 72, which is enough to make anyone’s eyes water.
Also adding that Nadal is formidable on clay, you’d have expected to see the Austrian leaving the court at the end of the match with his head bowed whilst Nadal celebrated.
But, like they say, third time lucky…
Thiem, ranked number seven in the world, played aggressively and kept Nadal on the baseline for lengthy periods making it difficult for him to get into his usual groove.
Constantly behind in both sets, Nadal could do nothing to stop the Austrian from booking his place in the semi-final to face either Juan Martin del Potro or Novak Djokvic.
American John Isner joins Thiem in the last four, and will face German Alexander Zverev.
Thiem said: “Probably the best fighter in tennis,” of Nadal, “Especially on clay it’s for sure, one of the toughest things to beat him.”
Nadal commended his opponent, but did not mask his disappointment
"He played very aggressive, hitting the ball very strong.
"The court here is probably the smaller on all the center courts on clay, so that's makes the players who play with bigger serve and hitting the ball strong, you know, is a little bit more easier for them to see the option to hit winners. So he did it.
"He played very long. He didn't miss a lot. Played high intensity. Yeah, so in general I was not able to push him back. He had the control of the points much more times than me. That's the key of this game."
When talking about his own performance, the Spaniard admitted he was struggling with his busy schedule.
He said: "It's obvious that I did not play my best match.
"I have been playing a lot, and is difficult when every day or for a long time it's true that Madrid and Rome, back to back after playing Barcelona back to back, so is not easy, no, after playing almost every day for the last four weeks, no?
"Is normal that one day you don't feel not perfect, and if you are unlucky on that day that you don't feel that well the opponent play unbelievable, so then tomorrow I will be in Mallorca fishing or playing golf or doing another thing (laughter). That's it.
"I'm going to rest a little bit that I think I deserve, and then I gonna start probably Monday/Tuesday to prepare Roland Garros, try to be best preparation possible during that week before. Is important event for me, obviously.'
Nadal will now have to re-adjust his priorities for the French Open which will see him under more scrutiny now since he was a firm favourite to win in Rome.
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