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Thiem ends Nadal's hopes of twelfth Barcelona Open title in 2019 with 6-4, 6-4 semifinal victory

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 27 Apr 2019
  • Dominic Thiem defeats Rafael Nadal at the Barcelona Open
  • Thiem will face Daniil Medvedev in the final
  • Nadal's 4-6, 4-6 defeat follows straight-sets loss to Fabio Fognini
Dominic Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open on Saturday (PA Sports)

Dominic Thiem ended Rafael Nadal's hopes of a twelfth Barcelona Open title in 2019 in the semifinals.

An impressive performance by Dominic Thiem saw the Austrian defeat 11-time Barcelona Open champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinals.

The centre court at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, held at Spain's oldest tennis club, is named Pista Rafael Nadal in honour of the man who has won the title there no fewer than 11 times - a record for most ATP singles titles at one tournament, which Nadal holds at the Barcelona Open, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and the tournament with which he is most intimately associated, the French Open.

Nadal shows his frustration during Saturday's semifinal defeat (PA Sport)
But it was Nadal's in name only on Saturday afternoon as Thiem reversed the result in a rematch of last year's French Open final, beating Nadal 6-4, 6-4 to reach the Barcelona Open final for the second time.

Thiem will face Daniil Medvedev in the final after Medvedev beat Kei Nishikori in three sets in the day's first semifinal.

Although the scoreline looks like it was a close match, Thiem really controlled the contest from start to finish. The Austrian, who recently won his first Masters 1000 Series title at Indian Wells and who had beaten Nadal three times on clay in their previous 11 meetings, broke in the fifth game with the help of two double faults from Nadal at 0-15 and 30-40 to lead 3-2 and swiftly consolidated the break for 4-2.

Nadal fended off four points for a double break to stay in touch at 3-4 down and got to 15-30 on Thiem's serve in the next game, but Thiem held with a running forehand pass for 5-3 and two games later sealed the 6-3 set with an ace.

Trailing by a set, Nadal was down 15-40 as he served to open the second set, but a forehand winner to save the second break point had him leaping and fist-pumping to the roaring crowd, and it felt like the King of Clay had finally arrived at the match as he held for 1-0. But Thiem snuffed out any incipient momentum with clinical holds of his own before pouncing at 2-2, striking a tremendous backhand pass to set up break points and converting the second to lead 3-2.

Once again, Nadal saved double break points to stay in touch at 3-4 and once again he got to 15-30 on his opponent's serve in the eighth game - but once again Thiem found a big forehand winner and punched away a volley to hold for 5-3.

Nadal found himself serving to stay in the match at 3-5 and trailing 15-30 to boot, but found a stab volley winner and held to force Thiem to serve it out. Then the Spaniard found some of his best tennis of the day to build a 0-40 lead on Thiem's serve - the first break points he had held all match.

Thiem delivered an impressive performance to knock out Nadal (PA Sports)
Thiem saved all three, landing an ace on the final one which was initially called out but overruled by umpire Carlos Bernardes and judged to be an ace on inspection of the mark, and swiftly wrapped up the 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Thiem is now just the second man to have beaten Nadal four or more times on clay. The other is Novak Djokovic, who has done it seven times.

It's the fourth straight year that Thiem has scored a clay-court victory over Nadal, but he has never done it more than once in a season.

Coupled with a straight-sets loss to Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Nadal's loss to Thiem means that he no longer seems as overwhelming a favourite for the French Open title as he did three weeks ago. Nadal has won the French Open before without winning Monte Carlo or Barcelona in the lead-up to the tournament - but only once, in 2014. The Spanish player spoke at the Monte-Carlo Masters about how difficult it was to find his rhythm and best tennis after all the injuries he has suffered in recent years and perhaps they are taking their toll now. But there are still two big events to come before the French Open, the Madrid Masters and the Rome Masters, and Nadal's form will be keenly scrutinized at both.

As for Thiem, the world no. 5 may have made the semifinals or better at the French Open for the past three years, but he has never won a clay-court title above 250 grade. The 25-year-old Austrian will bid to change that when he takes on Medvedev in Sunday's Barcelona Open final.

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Thiem ends Nadal's hopes of twelfth Barcelona Open title in 2019 with 6-4, 6-4 semifinal victory

Dominic Thiem became the second player to defeat Rafael Nadal four or more times on clay as he shone in a dominant 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 11-time champion on the Barcelona Open court named after him

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