Thiem tames Nadal


The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Melbourne

Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem stunned Rafael Nadal yes­ter­day to send the world No 1 tum­bling out of the Aus­tralian Open and set up a semi­fi­nal against Alexan­der Zverev.

The fifth seed, beaten by Nadal in the last two French Open fi­nals, bat­tled past the Spa­niard 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (8/6) to deny him a crack at a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam ti­tle.

He will now meet Ger­man sev­enth seed Zverev who shattered the dreams of vet­eran Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to book a maiden place in a Grand Slam last four.

Await­ing the win­ner of that clash will be ei­ther seven-time cham­pion No­vak Djokovic or six­time win­ner Roger Fed­erer, who meet in the other semi­fi­nal.

“The match was played at a very good level, I think we are both in great form,” said Thiem, only the sec­ond Aus­trian to make the Melbourne semis af­ter Thomas Muster – the man he sacked this week as an ad­vi­sor.

“Today I had the feel­ing I was lucky in the right sit­u­a­tion ... it is nec­es­sary be­cause he is one of the great­est of all time. You need some luck to beat him.”

Top seed Nadal had a 9-4 record over Thiem and had beaten him in all their five pre­vi­ous Slam meet­ings.

But the last time they played on hard­courts – at the 2018 US Open quar­ter­fi­nals – it was a five-set marathon.

And the signs pointed that way again, with the open­ing set on serve to 2-2 be­fore Thiem, gun­ning for a first Grand Slam ti­tle, worked a break point but couldn’t con­vert.

Both base­line-hug­gers, it be­came a slugfest be­fore Nadal man­aged to open some doors on the Thiem serve in game eight and he broke with a per­fect lob from the back of the court.

But Thiem came roar­ing back, break­ing back with a rip­ping cross­court re­turn. He saved a set point to take it to a tie-breaker where he stunned Nadal to seal a one set lead.

Nadal, drip­ping in sweat on a steamy Melbourne night, at­tacked in the sec­ond set and Thiem lost his serve to love to go 3-2 be­hind.

But the Spa­niard, the 2009 cham­pion, be­came riled when is­sued with a warn­ing for tak­ing too long to serve and it rat­tled him, send­ing down a dou­ble fault as Thiem squared the set at 4-4.

Nadal saved a set point and it went to an­other tie-break where

Thiem pre­vailed at the crunch thanks to a lucky net cord.

The third set was sim­i­larly tight, with no breaks un­til Nadal teased some er­rors from Thiem as he served to stay in the set, pump­ing his fists in cel­e­bra­tion.

But when Nadal shanked a fore­hand in the third game of set four to be bro­ken the mo­men­tum swung back to the Aus­trian. He lost his nerve serv­ing for the match at 5-4 be­fore fi­nally get­ting over the line in a tie-break for a fa­mous vic­tory.

Pic­ture: AFP

GI­ANT KILLER. Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem cel­e­brates af­ter beat­ing world No 1 Rafael Nadal in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Aus­tralian Open in Melbourne yes­ter­day.

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