Rafael Nadal lost his first semi-final on clay for 12 years as he was beaten by Fabio Fognini at the Rio Open. Reigning champion Nadal, 28, started strongly but went down 1-6 6-2 7-5 in two hours and 17 minutes. The defeat in Brazil ended a 52-match winning streak in semi-finals on clay for the Spaniard. Compatriot David Ferrer will face Fognini in the final.
Nadal’s quarter-final win over Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas had finished at 03:20 local time on Saturday morning and the world number three was back on court on Saturday evening to face Fognini.
For Fognini it was a first win in five attempts over Nadal, who clearly tired as the match went on.
“I’m really happy about this match. I beat the best player on this surface,” said the world number 28, who has been in good form this year since winning the Australian Open doubles title with Simone Bolelli last month.
“Rafa is always difficult. From the second set I played really well, and I tried to change a little bit to be more positive on court,” he said after the match.
“I feel my tennis close, closer than a month ago, to the level that I want to arrive again,” said Nadal, who has won 45 career titles on clay, including nine of the past 10 French Opens, but endured an injury-plagued second half of last year.
“The truth is that I lack physical continuity. I can’t understand why, but I wasn’t in good shape since the second set.
“I am getting tired earlier than usual and I had some cramps in several parts of my body. It’s odd because in all my career I have hardly had cramp problems.”
Fognini will be aiming for a fifth career title when he plays Ferrer.
“I’m super happy, and obviously tomorrow I will have to battle David, who has always beaten me … I will obviously be happy if I win. If I lose, I will also leave with the good memories from this week in Rio,” Fognini added after his win that took two hours and 17 minutes.
Second seed Ferrer reached the final with a 7-5 6-1 win over Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Ferrer reached the final with a 7-5 6-1 win over Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Rafael Nadal vs Fabio Fognini, 21/02/2015, 22:25 GMT Match Center