Andy Murray beaten by Austria's Dominic Thiem in Barcelona Open semi-final

Nadal, 30, has now won 10 consecutive matches and is aiming for his 10th French Open title next month.

Dominic Thiem claimed his first win over world number one Andy Murray to book his place in the final of the Barcelona Open on Saturday 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

There was no let-up in the second set from Nadal, who broke the 23-year-old twice in a row before serving to wrap up his 51st tournament win on clay.

"Last week I had 4-0, I felt like I had all of the chances and sometimes on clay matches happen this way so I'm very happy to get through". He beat Nadal in Buenos Aires in a final-set tie-breaker a year ago, and was himself on a 22-9 run this year, 10-1 on clay. Federer is likely to make it to at least number two by the summer if he picks up where he left off once he's back for grass season, or sooner, depending on if he joins at the end of the clay season for the French Open grand slam.

In the quarter-finals he was pushed to the limit by youngster Hyeon Chung but he managed to come out on top and won the match 7-6 (4), 6-2. "It will be hard, he is one of the best players in the world on clay", he added.

"I got three matches in three days against all different players", said Murray. As the World No. 9's backhand down-the-line missed the sideline by a whisker, Nadal was presented with a set point which he soon converted with Thiem sending his backhand into the net.

"It's a dream start to the claycourt season".

The World No.1 was broken three times in the first set, which gave his opponent the opening set with relative ease. But he really did miss out on the chance to test himself against the nine-time French Open victor on the dirt, which is something Murray definitely would have been looking for at the beginning of the tournament.

The statistics through the tournament suggested Thiem had to find something special to stay in this contest: Nadal had yet to drop a set, and led the ranks in first serve points and service games won. "But then I started playing at a very high level and Dominic probably started making a few more mistakes".

His streak of 16 straight wins includes back-to-back titles on the second-tier ATP Challenger Tour earlier this month.

  • Julie Sanders