Fabio Fognini described his victory over Rafael Nadal in Rio as his best-ever win, with the Italian dropping the first set but coming back to take the semifinal against the Spaniard, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The 27-year-old said it was the "best match I have won so far in my career," given Nadal's abilities on clay. “I’m really happy about this match,” Fognini said. “I beat the best player on this surface.”

Both players were returning from tough matches the night—or morning—before. Fognini won his quarterfinal over Federico Delbonis in a third-set tiebeaker on his ninth match point, wrapping up a 6-4, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (9) victory at around 1 a.m. Nadal took to the court next, completing his 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 win over Pablo Cuevas at 3:18 a.m.

Fognini dropped the first set to Nadal quickly, but then began to impose himself on his tiring opponent. “Rafa is always difficult,” said Fognini. “From the second set I played really well, and I tried to change a little bit to be more positive on court.”

Winning just two matches in his eight prior tournaments coming into the Rio Open, Fognini said that he would be able to "leave with the good memories from this week in Rio" as he looks to turn his season around. He is currently No. 22 in the rankings.