Dominic Thiem in Madrid Open final after big win over Kevin Anderson

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A comfortable second set followed, with Thiem breaking twice without offering any break-point opportunities to wrap up the win in one hour and 27 minutes. As a result of Nadal " s defeat, Roger Federer, who is sitting out the clay-court season, will return to world number one on Monday, but Nadal could regain top spot with a win in Rome.

Rafael Nadal suffered his first clay-court defeat in nearly a year when the world No 1 was shocked 7-5, 6-3 by Austria's Dominic Thiem in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals on Friday. "I think it has just been a match where he was better than me, same as a few weeks ago I was better than him".

If we were talking about the ranking of one year, if I played really good in one period of the year, which I've done, let's be clear, I have been playing really good recently. Some days you don't play as well as you'd like to play. "Also when that happens it's because your opponent is doing really well".

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Nadal entered the affair having won 21 straight matches on clay with 50 sets in a row.

Nadal had not dropped a set on clay since his reverse against Thiem at the Internazionali d'Italia last May. But Thiem, who beat Nadal in Rome a year ago, was able to stick around in the first then capitalized on two Nadal doubles faults to take the set lead.

"I must be honest, I think I did a good job then because I didn't really think of it too much of my 0-10 record in Masters 1000 quarterfinals", said Anderson afterwards.

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None of these were on clay, but they all were played at venues which I would not grade as playing particularly slow, and certainly Madrid falls into this category as well, being the quickest clay court on the ATP Tour. Previous year I made it to the finals in every single tournament. "So I can't go back to the hotel and think that I have to do a lot of things different to prepare the next events because [that] will not be something that will be very smart".

World No.8 Kevin Anderson battled into his first Master's semi-final with a 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 win over Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic.

The 19-year-old overcame Kyle Edmund, who sprung a second-round shock on Novak Djokovic, 7-5 6-7 (6-8) 6-4.

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Sharapova also lost in three sets to Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands while Halep, the champion in 2016 and 2017, was blown away by Karolina Pliskova.