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Rafael Nadal upset at Rio Open, crashes out in semi-finals

He was beaten by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, who will play Guido Pella in the finals.

Rafa Nadal loses Rio Open semi
Nadal lost out on his favourite surface, clay

Top seed Rafael Nadal crashed out of the ATP500 Rio Open in the Brazilian city yesterday, losing to Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in a three-set semifinal match 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4.

The Spanish former No. 1 was the first ever champion of the tournament, which began in 2014, and is played on his pet surface. Nadal took on the moniker of the ‘King of Clay’ early on in his career for his mastery of the surface, but today was outclassed by the Uruguayan.

Cuevas hit 11 aces en route to victory among a total 48 winners, and although Nadal won the first set even that victory was tenuous, with proceedings being taken to a tiebreak before Nadal won. Eventually, after a 2 hour, 28 minute match it was Cuevas who took his first ever victory over the Spaniard, with the two having faced each other twice before.

Every contest between Cuevas and Nadal so far has been played on clay, with the two last playing each other in Hamburg in 2015. The pair also competed at the Rio Open last year, with Nadal coming out on top in that quarter-final, although it was his compatriot David Ferrer who would eventually win the title.

Nadal had said in late 2015 that he was looking for 2016 to be his ‘comeback year,’ but has so far had no luck. Perhaps his most surprising results came at the Australian Open, where Nadal was ousted in the first round by Davis Cup teammate Fernando Verdasco in a five set match.

The World No. 5 won 3 titles last year, but has not won a Grand Slam since 2014. Five of Nadal’s last 6 titles have come on clay, but 2016 has not gone the way of the Spaniard. He began the year losing to Novak Djokovic at the finals fo ATP250 Qatar Open, who beat him 6-1, 6-2 – and most recently lost to 22-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem at the semi-finals of the Argentina Open.

Thiem also played in the semi-finals of the Rio Open and was widely expected to fight for the title, but despite being in good form, and ousting 2nd seed David Ferrer from the tournament early on, lost in straight sets to Guido Pella of Argentina.

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