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Rafael Nadal eager to play down Thiem hiccup

Rafael Nadal eager to play down Thiem hiccup

Zverev has always been marked out as a future star of the men's game and his victory over Thiem suggests the German can be a major threat at the French Open later this month. Sugita's clay data is very bad too, and his random run in Barcelona a year ago is looking more and more like a flash in the pan, having lost all six matches on the surface after that display.

Asked if he feels at that level, the German replied: 'Rafa is the favorite no matter where he plays on a clay court.

Nadal, meanwhile, suffered his first defeat on clay in 357 days when he succumbed in straight sets to Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open on Friday which also brought to an end his run of 50 consecutive set wins - an new open era record.

He said his victory over Nadal had been a timely boost after being thrashed by the Spaniard in Monte Carlo and falling in the quarter-finals in Barcelona.

He will roll on to try to defend his Rome title next week having won nine matches in a row on clay, dropping only one set in the process during title runs in Munich and Madrid.

None of the their previous meetings had been on Thiem's favoured clay and the surface proved decisive as he managed to dictate against Anderson who was appearing in his first semi-final of a Masters 1000 event. Nadal immediately faced break points, and survived, but Thiem bludgeoned his forehand three times for an easy hold, 2-2, and his backhand for 3-3.

(1) Nadal looking at a quarterfinal rematch with (6) Thiem from last week in Madrid...

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Thiem then struck an ace to complete the set. Yesterday's win means that now, he's won 80.0% of service points here, and 43.0% on return (123.0% combined), and he's barely been broken on serve - winning 80% of service points will virtually guarantee this. In the victory, Zverev won 88 percent of his first serve points and 63 percent of his second serve points.

Zverev will face Denis Shapovalov after he outlasted Kyle Edmund, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-4.

"I've been playing great tennis and I'm unbelievably happy", the smiling champion told Sky Sports.

Nadal struggled for most of the match as Thiem grew in confidence.

Nadal can reclaim the top spot next week in Rome if he wins the title-but as luck would have it, he is again drawn in Thiem's quarter.

Zverev has now reached five Masters semi-finals in the past year.

Thiem unsettled Nadal from the start, breaking his serve twice in the first set.

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