Dominic Thiem earned a crucial victory at the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday, as he overcame Rafael Nadal 7-6(7), 7-6(4) at The O2 in London.
In a meeting between the top two players in Group London 2020, Thiem saved two set points in a marathon 72-minute opener and held his nerve in crucial moments to improve to 7-2 against Top 10 players this year. Thiem is now 2-0 in round robin play and has boosted his chances of reaching the semi-finals in London for the second straight year.
Last year’s runner-up stepped inside the baseline and took his groundstrokes early to push Nadal behind the baseline and earn back-to-back wins against the World No. 2 for the first time. The Austrian also beat Nadal in four sets en route to the Australian Open final in January.
Thiem will attempt to earn his 300th tour-level victory when he meets Andrey Rublev in his final round robin match on Thursday. The World No. 3 has lost his past two ATP Head2Head contests against the Russian, which includes a quarter-final loss at last month’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
With both men eager to take time away from their opponent in the first set, Thiem played with aggression from the baseline and Nadal came to the net on 20 occasions (14/20). In the tie-break, the 13-time Roland Garros champion drove his backhand down the line and showcased his volleying skills to gain a 5/2 advantage. Thiem increased his aggression, especially on his return, to save two set points and crushed a crosscourt forehand to convert his first set point after 72 minutes.
Nadal continued to hold serve with relative ease in the second set and earned the first break of the match at 3-3. The left-hander attacked Thiem’s backhand to earn break point and anticipated well to strike a forehand winner down the line. But Thiem responded immediately, as he withstood forehand aggression from Nadal with pace and precision on his backhand side to break back.
Nadal handed Thiem three consecutive match points with uncharacteristic errors at the start of the 10th game. But the Spaniard served with power and moved forward to escape danger. Thiem eventually clinched victory in the tie-break, as he overpowered his rival from the baseline to win three straight points from 3/3. Nadal struck a crosscourt backhand error to close the match.
Nadal, who defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets on Sunday, drops to 1-1 in Group London 2020. The Spaniard will face reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final round robin encounter on Thursday. Nadal was the only player to beat the Greek at this event last year.
In the evening session, Tsitsipas and Rublev will both attempt to earn their first wins of the tournament. If Tsitsipas defeats Rublev, Theim will become the first player to qualify for the semi-finals.
Did You Know?
Five of the past six sets between Thiem and Nadal have been decided in tie-breaks. The Austrian has won all five. At the Australian Open in January, Thiem defeated Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) in the quarter-finals.
Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour