Huge upset in Rome as Thiem shocks Nadal
Rafael Nadal's incredible clay-court winning streak came to an end on Friday, as he went down in straight sets to Dominic Thiem at the Italian Open.
The Spaniard has been unbeatable on clay all season, claiming three successive titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, but Thiem finally found a way past his impregnable defences.
The 23-year-old Austrian was impressive throughout the quarter-final clash as he won 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 51 minutes, gaining his revenge on Nadal for two recent defeats on clay.
Thiem got off to the best possible start, bossing the baseline rallies with his impressive groundstrokes to earn breaks in the first and fifth games.
That left Nadal in a deep hole, 1-5 down, and though he would show some fight in the eighth game to regain one of his lost breaks, it wasn't enough to stop Thiem from serving out for the first set.
Thiem continued to prosper with his attacking approach in the second set, taking the game to Nadal by moving up to meet his shots early and return them with interest.
Nadal withstood the pressure for a while but eventually wilted, surrendering two more late breaks to hand Thiem a famous victory.
"I came in with a very aggressive game style, because I knew that if I wanted to have a chance, then I would have to do something different and be more aggressive," said Thiem.
"I knew that if it goes in, everything, maybe I have a chance. If not, maybe I also lose easy. But today was one of these days where I really felt the ball great on the racquet, and a lot of risky shots went in.
"It was a very, very good performance and I think probably one of my best matches."
Thiem awaits the winner of the match between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro.
Djokovic took the first set 6-1 shortly before play was suspended due to thunder showers.
Play was eventually called off for the night and the match will resume tomorrow.
The second semi-final sees young German Alexander Zverev take on big-hitting American John Isner.
Friday's quarter-final results in Rome
Dominic Thiem (Austria) beat Rafa Nadal (Spain) 6-4 6-3
Alexander Zverev (Germany) beat Milos Raonic (Canada) 7-6(4) 6-1
John Isner (U.S.) beat Marin Cilic (Croatia) 7-6(3) 2-6 7-6(2)
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) vs Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) 6-1, 1*-2 (suspended)