On the attack: Thiem upends Nadal at ATP Finals, taking 2 tiebreaker sets


Dominic Thiem mastered the tiebreakers again to get the better of Rafael Nadal, beating the 20-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets on Tuesday for a second win at the ATP Finals in London, England.

Thiem clinched a 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) win on his fifth match point in their first meeting since the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, when the Austrian player prevailed after winning three tiebreakers in a tight four-set match.

The U.S. Open champion opened group play in the season-ending event with a three-set victory over defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, and will be guaranteed qualification for the semifinals if Tsitsipas beats tournament newcomer Andrey Rublev in the evening match.

Nadal, who beat Rublev in straight sets in their opener, missed a chance to qualify with a match to spare and next will play Tsitsipas on Thursday with a semifinal place at stake. Nadal has never won the ATP Finals, which remains the biggest gap on his resumé.

WATCH | Dominic Thiem defeats world No. 2 Nadal in straight sets:

World No. 3 Dominic Thiem of Austria defeated No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain in straight sets 7-6(4), 7-6(4) on the third day of the ATP Finals. 1:00

Thiem, who described his performance as one of the best of his career, won the first set after coming from 5-2 down in the tiebreaker, saving two set points in the process.

‘Great match from 1st to last point’

There was high-quality shot-making throughout the match, but not least when Thiem produced two inside-out forehand winners in a three-point span to close the tiebreaker — the first on set point for Nadal at 6-7 and then to clinch the set.

“It was a great match from the first to the last point,” Thiem said, “but actually I was pretty lucky to get that first set.”

After both players had their service broken in the second set, Nadal saved three match points when serving at 5-4 and 40-0 down. He won five straight points in that game, with one including a lob from a ‘tweener that Thiem just managed to get back before Nadal powered a backhand down the line.

Thiem won three straight points to move 6-3 ahead in the tiebreaker. Nadal saved another match point but sent a tired backhand just wide to lose the match.

On the day Austria went back into lockdown amid a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the country’s greatest sports stars was happy to put on a show for his compatriots.

“I hope people enjoyed the match back home,” Thiem said, “and forgot a little bit for a few hours the tough times we are living through right now.”

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