Thiem's Power Play Snaps Rafa's Streak | ATP World Tour | TennisDominic Thiem showed great maturity and poise on Friday afternoon to outplay seven-time former champion Rafael Nadal at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The Austrian learned the lessons from his final losses to Nadal at the recent Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Mutua Madrid Open with a 6-4, 6-3 quarter-final victory in one hour and 51 minutes. It ended Nadal’s 17-match winning streak on red dirt, which included three straight clay crowns.
“I came in with a very aggressive game style, because I knew that if I wanted to have a chance, then I would have to do something different and be more aggressive,” said Thiem.”I knew that if it goes in, everything, maybe I have a chance. If not, maybe I also lose easy. But today was one of these days where I really felt the ball great on the racquet, and a lot of risky shots went in.”It was a very, very good performance and I think probably one of my best matches.”
Thiem, with a 17-3 record on clay this year, will now look to reach his fourth ATP World Tour title match of 2017 against either second seed and four-time champion Novak Djokovic or Juan Martin del Potro. He is 0-4 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Djokovic and 0-2 lifetime against del Potro.
“It’s a very tough situation in tennis. I mean, you have a big win, and the next day there is Djokovic or Del Potro waiting,” said Thiem. “It remains very, very difficult. But they are both unbelievable, big players. I think it’s going to be a tough match between them today. Whoever wins, I have to take on tomorrow.”
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Eighth seed Thiem got off to a sensational start, with his depth of shot troubling Nadal and not permitting the seven-time champion any respite in baseline rallies. Dragging Nadal around the court with pace and power, Thiem broke Nadal in the first and fifth games.
Although the intensity of Thiem’s play naturally dipped, with errors creeping into his game as Nadal regained one service break, the Austrian wrapped up the set courtesy of three stray groundstrokes. It was only the third set that Nadal had lost in 36 sets on the surface this season.
By stepping inside the baseline to take Nadal’s groundstrokes early, Thiem continued to prosper in the second set – at one point winning eight out of nine points to almost clinch a service break for 3-1. Nadal’s ‘never-say-die’ attitude and pursuit of an answer to Thiem’s best play, ensured the Spaniard was never out of contention, despite falling to 15/40 at 2-2 and 0/30 at 3-3 on serve.
But backhand and forehand winners in successive points from Thiem earned him the break for a 4-3 advantage. The 23-year-old then controlled his nerves at 15/40 in the next game, trusting his game that has brought him six ATP World Tour clay-court crowns. With Nadal serving at 3-5, Thiem won four straight points and clinched his first match point when his opponent mis-hit a forehand wide.
It was Thiem’s second victory in six meetings against Nadal, adding to his 2016 Argentina Open semi-final win.
“It’s a great achievement for me. If you’re up a set and a break, you never feel safe because he just doesn’t give you one easy point. So you really have to finish the match off, and that’s what I did today with a little bit of trouble in my last service game.”He’s this kind of player who never gives up probably. Probably the best fighter in tennis. Especially on clay it’s one of the toughest things to beat him.”