Nadal sees 'big improvement' despite Thiem defeat

Rafael Nadal was content that his form moved in the right direction at the Barcelona Open, even though he was beaten by Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals.

Thiem outclassed clay king Nadal to beat him on the red dirt for a fourth consecutive season, booking a final meeting with Daniil Medvedev.

However, given the world number two had deemed last week's Monte Carlo Masters loss to Fabio Fognini one of his worst ever clay-court displays, the Spaniard was encouraged by his performances in Barcelona.

"After this week, my confidence is back," Nadal said. "I really believe that I made very good improvements to create a good base to try to achieve my goals during the next couple of weeks.

"It was a big difference [to Monte Carlo]. Against Fognini I played the worst match probably in 14 years on clay. Today I played a good match of tennis.

"It was a good level of tennis this afternoon. I played against a great opponent. Fognini is a great opponent, too, but I was not a competitive player. Today I was competitive and I enjoyed the match.

"I really felt competitive for the first time in a way that I want to feel myself. And as I said before, I am happy and I am confident that I made a big improvement this week."

Thiem was beaten by Nadal in last year's French Open final and took encouragement from this victory as the campaign builds towards Roland Garros.

"I'm always super proud if I beat him because he's the best player ever on this surface," Thiem said. "It's always very special to beat him here on clay.

"We always had great matches in the past, and also today was very good and I was more lucky today and I got the win."

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