Tennis: Rafael Nadal dumped from Rio semi-finals by Uruguayan battler Cuevas

Pablo Cuevas hitting a return to Rafael Nadal during their semi-final match, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Feb 20, 2016.
Pablo Cuevas hitting a return to Rafael Nadal during their semi-final match, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Feb 20, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Rafael Nadal's below-par season has continued with the former world No. 1 dumped from the Rio Open semi-finals with a 6-7 (6-8,) 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 defeat by unseeded Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas on Saturday.

The top seed pipped Cuevas in a first set tie-break and denied his opponent two set points in the second but succumbed to his first defeat by the world No. 45.

Cuevas will meet another unseeded player in Guido Pella in the clay-court final after the Argentine's 6-1, 6-4 humbling of fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who beat Nadal in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires last week.

World No. 5 Nadal, who failed to win a Grand Slam title last year for the first time since 2004, entered the season positive after an injury-free off-season but was dumped out of the first round of the Australian Open and has struggled to return to his best form since.