Top-ranked Rafael Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-3 in the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Friday, breaking the defending champion’s run of 21 straight wins on clay courts.
Nadal hadn’t lost a single set on clay since falling to Thiem at the Rome Open quarterfinals one year ago.
Since that loss, Nadal had been impeccable on his preferred surface. He had won the French Open and the hard-court US Open to take his Grand Slam haul to 16, and he came to the Spanish capital fresh off winning his 11th titles at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
But Thiem beat Nadal at his own game, finishing long rallies with winners and avoiding the costly hitting errors that sunk Nadal’s title defense.