RIO DE JANEIRO: After 52 straight semi-final claycourt wins stretching back 12 years, top seeded titleholder Rafael Nadal saw his streak end on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), exiting the Rio Open to Italian Fabio Fognini.
Fognini, who had lost his four previous meetings with the 14-time grand slam champion, won 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach a Sunday (Monday in Manila) final against Spaniard David Ferrer.
Second seed Ferrer reached the trophy match with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.
“I played well in the first set but lacked tactical and physical continuity thereafter,” said Nadal.
“It was very humid out there and I got tired much quicker than normal. I started cramping as well—which is very unusual for me,” said the Spanish star.
Nadal, who only came off court at 3:30 am after Friday night’s quarter-final win over Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas, was visibly fatigued, allowing his early momentum to slip as he crashed out after 2hr 17 min.
“I am very pleased as I played the best in the world on this surface. This is my best career win to date,” said 28th-ranked Fognini, seeded four at the event whose inaugural edition Nadal won last year.
That success was a building block early in a clay season which would culminate in a ninth Roland Garros title, but a series of injuries thereafter hampered Nadal.