The world No. 2 lost in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals in straight sets to Fabio Fognini, and then fell at the same stage in similar fashion on Saturday to Dominic Thiem at the Barcelona Open - both tournaments, along with the French Open, that he has won 11 times each, an ATP record.
A two-time champion and three-time finalist in Barcelona, world No. 7 Nishikori lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to 14th-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russian Federation.
Thiem will try to win his second title of the year on Sunday in the final against Medvedev. I was competitive, and I think that from here on I will be even better.' Thiem lost the Barcelona final to Nadal two years ago, but the Austrian has beaten the 17-time Grand Slam champion on clay in each of the last three seasons.
Thiem will on Sunday face Daniil Medvedev, a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victor over two-time tournament victor Kei Nishikori. Medvedev held with an ace, 6-5, and produced a stunning backhand victor to bring up match-point.
Garin's fellow Chilean Nicolas Jarry hit back from a set down to beat Bulgarian 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov 2-6 6-4 7-6 (2) and the lucky loser will face Daniil Medvedev after the Russian defeated America's Mackenzie McDonald 6-3 6-2. In fact, he displayed the same "Clay Beast Mode" we are so often used to seeing from Nadal himself and that in itself is perhaps the biggest indication of what is to come, still.
The Uruguayan battled back from a set down and saved a match point to triumph 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (3) after more than three hours on court. The match was played in 2018 where Dominic Thiem won in 3 sets. "I will enjoy tomorrow". "Starting the point in good position or in bad position, changed a lot. but the rest of the things have been positive and as I said before, congrats to him, he played great", Nadal said. "So when I started to miss the second serve, I really lost a little bit of the confidence on trying to go for a good first serve, because I was without confidence on the second, so that affects the first".
Is this the year that Rafael Nadal's hegemony over the ATP Tour's biggest clay court tournaments - and clay by extension - is finally challenged? "I'm happy and I'm confident".