Rome - Austria's Dominic Thiem sent Rafael Nadal crashing out of the Rome
Masters on Friday with a 6-4, 6-3 quarter-final victory, ending the
Spaniard's 17-match winning run.
Nadal, a former seven-time champion in the Italian capital, had dominated Thiem to win the Madrid Masters final last week.
the 30-year-old, seeded fourth in Rome and building up for an assault
on a 10th French Open title, was outplayed throughout a thrilling
encounter on centre court.
Thiem, the eighth seed, will now meet
the winner of the quarter-final clash between four-time winner Novak
Djokovic, seeded second, and unseeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro.
tie was suspended for the night after torrential rain swept the city.
Four-time Djokovic was leading 6-1, 1-2 when play was halted.
Nadal, meanwhile, said he intends to have a free weekend before ramping up his preparations for Roland Garros from Monday.
I'll be in Mallorca fishing or playing golf, or another thing. I'm
going to rest a little bit, I think I deserve it," said Nadal.
"Then from Monday and Tuesday I will start to prepare for Roland Garros. It's an important event for me.
"If you do things well, you have more chances in Roland Garros. I hope to play my best tennis in Roland Garros."
given a first round bye, played only three games of his second round
match with Nicolas Almagro before his unseeded compatriot retired
injured on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old made amends for his comparative lack of playing time with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Jack Sock on Thursday.
But from the outset against Thiem, who had also lost to the Spanish star in Barcelona, Nadal looked in trouble.
The Austrian's serve, precision and movement were near flawless and soon had Nadal hitting shots wide of the mark.
As the centre court crowd steadily got behind the 23-year-old upstart, Nadal's confidence waned.
Thiem, who has a 17-3 record on clay this year, will now look to reach his fourth final of 2017.
However, he is 0-4 in career meetings with Djokovic and 0-2 against del Potro.
a very tough situation in tennis. I mean, you have a big win, and the
next day there is Djokovic or Del Potro waiting," said Thiem after his
second victory in six meetings against Nadal, adding to his 2016
Argentina Open semi-final win.
"It remains very, very difficult.
But they are both unbelievable, big players. I think it's going to be a
tough match between them today. Whoever wins, I have to take on
German 20-year-old Alexander Zverev reached his first
Masters semi-final with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory over Canadian fifth
seed Milos Raonic.
Zverev will face unseeded John Isner, 12 years
his senior, after the giant American clinched a 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 7-6
(7/2) win over Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic.
"It's another stepping stone in my career," said Zverev.
In the WTA event, Romanian sixth seed Simona Halep and Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens will face off in the semi-finals on Saturday.
the champion in Madrid last week, surged into the last four for the
third time after a 6-2, 6-4 win over Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit.
who reached the French Open final in 2014, now meets Bertens after the
15th seed, ranked 20th in the world, ousted Australian qualifier Daria
Gavrilova 6-3, 6-3.
In the other semi-final French Open champion
Garbine Muguruza of Spain meets Elina Svitolina, who stunned Czech
second seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 7-6 (11/9).
Muguruza overcame a second-set fightback from Venus Williams to prevail 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 against the American, seeded ninth.
Results on the sixth day of the Rome Masters on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Dominic Thiem (AUT x8) bt Rafael Nadal (ESP x4) 6-4, 6-3
Alexander Zverev (GER x16) bt Milos Raonic (CAN x5) 7-6 (7/4), 6-1
John Isner (USA) bt Marin Cilic (CRO x6) 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 7-6 (7/2)
Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) leads Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-1, 1-2 (Suspended due to rain; to be completed on Saturday)
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3) bt Venus Williams (USA x9) 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Elina Svitolina (UKR x8) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 6-2, 7-6 (9/7)
Kiki Bertens (NED x15) bt Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-3, 6-3
Simona Halep (ROM x 6) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-2, 6-4