NONTHABURI, Thailand – Top-ranked Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the Thailand Open on Saturday, going down 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in an all-Spanish semifinal.
The 53rd-ranked Garcia-Lopez's impressive string of winners and flat, wide serves — that included 10 aces — surprised Nadal, who was fresh from his U.S. Open victory to complete a career Grand Slam.
"It's a difficult loss to accept," Nadal said. "It's one of those matches you are going to lose once every two years."
Garcia-Lopez will face 60th-ranked Jarkko Nieminen in Sunday's final after the Finn beat Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-2.
"I've never beaten a No. 1 player in the world," Garcia-Lopez said. "I think this is the best victory in my career."
"Everything was fantastic," Garcia-Lopez said. "For the moment, I'm a bit shocked."
Nadal's loss interrupted his quest to claim his seventh tournament of the year and 43rd career ATP title.
Signs of trouble for Nadal emerged in the second set when Garcia-Lopez started dictating important shots, at one stage whipping a groundstroke deep to the Spaniard's backhand and forcing him to throw his racket in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the ball.
Garcia-Lopez rode his momentum through the third set, applying pressure and forcing errors by Nadal, who converted only two of 26 breakpoint opportunities.
"He played a great match, especially in the third (set)," Nadal said. "I had a great chance to be in the final. I have to blame myself that I didn't play aggressive when I had a chance to break. He served well on break points. I lost chance after chance."
The 29-year-old Nieminen reached his first final of the year with sharp groundstrokes and an accurate first serve.
"I feel great," Nieminen said. "I haven't been in (a) final for a while, the last time was in Sydney 2009."
The Finn has not dropped a set in his run to the final, including wins over No. 7-seeded Viktor Troicki in the second round and No. 3-seeded Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals.