Tennis fans in Brazil were amazed to witness the clay court phenomenon that is Rafael Nadal lose to Fabio Fognini earlier today, to end the Spaniard's amazing winning streak in semi-finals on the surface, which dated back all of 12 years. It ensured that it will be the 27-year-old Italian player who competes in the final now, where he will face another Spanish player in David Ferrer.

Nadal had been the reigning champion at the Rio Open and, despite being far from the form that has made him all but invincible on his favourite tennis surface over many years, had seemed well in control of the match as he stormed into a one set lead by six games to one.

From there though his dominance seemed to lessen as his opponent sensed an upset, to confidently claim the second set 6-2 to make the match all-square again. The decisive set was an even contest before Fognini broke the 14-time Grand Slam winner's serve to edge the match 7-5 in the third set, after two hours and 17 minutes of absorbing action.

For 28-year-old Nadal it may well prove to be a timely wake-up call, as he looks for his tenth title at the French Open in the summer, to prove that he is not infallible on this surface after all. It will also give the likes of Novak Djokovic (who is desperately searching for his first French Open victory to complete his Grand Slam 'set') extra hope should they face him later this season on clay.

It was still an amazing run of successes though by the current world number three that came to an end, encompassing some 52 matches. The Majorcan may well feel that the late finish (03:20 local time) to his quarter-final match could have had something to do with the defeat though, as he was looking tired in the soaring Rio heat by the end of the match.

The clearly delighted world number 28 said: "I'm really happy about this match. I beat the best player on this surface."

The ever-consistent Ferrer, seeded two for the championship, enjoyed a relatively straightforward passage through to the final himself, beating Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-5 6-1 in the other semi-final.

The omens for the final are heavily in Ferrer's favour, as he has never lost to Fognini in seven attempts. Both players have a big financial incentive to take the title, as the winner will walk off with a massive cheque for $343,000.