Italian Open: Rafael Nadal beaten by Dominic Thiem in quarter-finals
Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal is out of the Italian Open after a straight-set defeat by Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals in Rome.
The 30-year-old Spaniard was previously unbeaten on clay this year, having won 17 straight matches.
Yet Thiem dominated this encounter, frequently forcing Nadal behind the baseline to set up a 6-4 6-3 win.
He will face either world number two Novak Djokovic or Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals.
Elsewhere, American John Isner beat Croatia’s Marin Cilic 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 7-6 (7-2) and will meet Alexander Zverev in the last four, after the 20-year-old German saw off Canada’s Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.
Nadal’s title charge ends
After triumphs in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, Nadal was looking to win his fourth straight title on clay this year before the French Open, which starts on 28 May.
However, Thiem could now prove to be a major obstacle as Nadal aims to win a 10th title at Roland Garros.
The Austrian raced into a 5-1 lead with a double break and held his nerve to serve out the first set after Nadal had broken back to make it 5-4.
He continued to thrive by playing closer to the baseline than in recent defeats by Nadal, breaking in the seventh game of the second set.
Thiem then saved break points to hold, before breaking Nadal again to claim only his second win in six meetings with the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
Halep through but Pliskova out
Romania’s Simona Halep reached her third straight clay semi-final as she won 6-2 6-4 against Estonia qualifier Anett Kontaveit, who knocked out world number one Angelique Kerber in round two.
Halep, 25, will play Kiki Bertens in the last four after the Dutchwoman beat unseeded Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-3 6-3.
In the other half of the draw, eighth seed Elina Svitolina upset second seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic with a 6-2 7-6 (11-9) victory.
The Ukrainian will face either Venus Williams or Garbine Muguruza, who play their last eight tie later on Friday.