Roger Federer's return to clay cut short as he is knocked out of Madrid Open by Dominic Thiem

  • Roger Federer just lost to Dominic Thiem in three sets.
  • Federer looked excellent in the first set against a player he had earlier described as a “true clay courter.”
  • But he threw away his lead to lose 6-3, 6-7, 4-6 in the Madrid Open on Friday.
  • Thiem advances to the tournament semi-final on Saturday, where he meets Novak Djokovic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

Roger Federer just chucked away a first set lead, losing, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, to Dominic Thiem in the Madrid Open quarter-final on Friday.

Federer had beaten Richard Gasquet with ease before a labored win over Gael Monfils on Thursday to win the right to face Thiem, a player he had called a “true clay courter” ahead of their La Caja Magica match in Madrid, Spain.

The 37-year-old, on balance, was always going to be the underdog. Yes, Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles in his highly decorated career and is even a three-time champion in Madrid.

But this was only his third match back on the soft surface after three years away from clay court tennis, and he had said earlier this month that his confidence was in “no man’s land” because he had forgotten how to slide. Thiem, meanwhile, has become one of the elite players to beat on clay.

Read more: Roger Federer says he’s ‘not confident’ about returning to clay next week because he’s ‘forgotten how to slide’

It looked like none of that mattered in the first set, as Federer pounded 136 mph serves at Thiem, exercised flawless court management, and showed superior rally craft to take a commanding 6-3 lead in the first set.

But then it all fell apart for Federer as Thiem held his nerve to win a tie break in the second set, before breaking Federer for the first time in the third match of the third set.

As Federer crumbled, Thiem closed out the match and claimed the win, knocking Federer out of the competition.

Thiem was deserving of the win – his second of the year after beating him at Indian Wells – after he switched strategy and found answers for Federer’s backhand.

With victory secured, Thiem is rewarded with a semi-final match against Djokovic.

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