Just when it seemed as though the top two seeds would be doing battle for the Argentina Open title, a pair of underdogs pulled massive upsets on Saturday to set a surprise final. After David Ferrer advanced to the semifinals by finishing off his quarterfinal in the morning, he was ousted in his second match of the day. He would join reigning champion Rafael Nadal, who was stunned by Dominic Thiem.
Ferrer Fights to Reach Semifinal
Second seed David Ferrer was leading the first set of his quarterfinal against Pablo Cuevas 4-2 when rain held the match over to Saturday. When play resumed on Saturday, Ferrer closed out the opening set 6-4. The break seemed to reinvigorate Cuevas though, as he powered through the second set. He would break Ferrer twice and save six break points to send the match to a deciding set. Despite outplaying Ferrer in the final set, Cuevas could only manage one break of serve. The Spaniard scored two, which would be enough to claim the set and the match.
Thiem Saves Match Point to Stun Nadal
Defending champion and "King of Clay" Rafael Nadal was surprisingly sent packing in the semifinals in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Dominic Thiem put on a gutsy performance to stun the world number five with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory. Thiem hit nine aces and won 53 percent of Nadal’s second serve points. He would save one match point to reach the final in just under three hours.
Nadal had been struggling with his form all week, but he got off to a dream start by breaking Thiem in the Austrian’s first service games. Just like his previous two matches, the lefty failed to hold on. History repeated itself as that inconsistency snuck back into Nadal’s game and Thiem would not take long to reclaim the break. The youngster kept pushing and managed to grab a second break to claim the opening set. Leading Nadal for the first time, Thiem tightened up. Nadal kept pushing in the second set and was rewarded with a break in the 10th game to clinch the set.
Thiem was unfazed by blowing the lead and continued to stand up to Nadal in the third set. He matched the Spaniard shot for shot from the baseline. The pair exchanged breaks in the final set, but Thiem still found himself down match point at 4-5. He saved it and eventually pushed the match to a deciding tiebreak. In the breaker, it was Thiem who looked like the experienced veteran, appearing calm and continuing to pour on the pressure from the baseline. Statistically, the two men were nearly even in the match, but it was Thiem who won the most important points. He won the tiebreak 7-3 to claim the biggest win of his career.
Almagro Powers Past Exhausted Ferrer
Only a couple of hours after completing his quarterfinal victory, Ferrer was forced to return to the court to contest his semifinal against Nicolas Almagro. The world number six did not have enough left in the tank to stop the resurgent Almagro, who cruised past Ferrer 6-4, 7-5. Almagro’s serve was too much for his fellow Spaniard, as he saved all five break points that he faced in the match, Almagro grabbed two breaks of his own to claim victory in an hour and 50 minutes.
Despite being tired, Ferrer had every reason to be confident going into the match against Almagro, as he had won all 15 of their previous meetings. Ferrer was solid in the opening set, and actually out-chanced Almagro with four break points to his rival's two. However, Almagro converted one of those break points early in the set and Ferrer could not recover. Ferrer did not give up in the second set and held on for most of the second set, despite pressure on his serve from Almagro. The smaller Spaniard seemed out of gas on return and was broken at 5-5 in the final set. The former world number nine served his way into his first final since 2014.
Thiem and Almagro will meet for the second time in their careers and second time this season. The Austrian ran Almagro off the court at the Australian Open 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.