MELBOURNE, January 29, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem outlasted World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) in four hours and 10 minutes to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time.
”All the match was on a very good level. We were both in good form,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “We already had this epic match [at the US Open] in New York two years ago and today I had a feeling I was lucky in the right situations. The net cord was on my side. He is one of the greatest of all time, so you do sometimes need luck to beat him.”
During the first set, both comfortably traded holds of serves until Nadal broke for 5-3 after a perfect backhand lob. However, Thiem remained unimpressed, stuck to his aggressive game style and went on securing the re-break after hitting a forehand winner and saving a set point at 30-40. In the subsequent tie-break, the 26-year-old Austrian fought back from a mini-break down, convincing with four relentless winners.
Nadal once again grabbed the lead in the second set, breaking for 3-2. However, the Mallorcan continued to hit a higher than average amount of unforced errors, followed by a crucial double fault to lose the edge again. Thiem kept pressing on return, showing no relentlessness, to earn a set point for a potential 2-0 lead in the 12th game of the set. Nadal was able to avert the loss of set for the time being, but then had to admit a 0-2 backlog after losing another tiebreaker.
The following third set was dominated by strong serving, with nobody contributing a break point until Thiem served at 4-5. Nadal forced his opponent into errors with well-placed deep forehand returns to eventually claim two set points. The Spaniard went on converting his second set point after Thiem hit a backhand into the net.
For the first time in the match, you could see Thiem struggling with the circumstances, as the Vienna Neustadt native could not get rid of his unforced errors series, allowing the Spaniard two break points in the early proceedings of the fourth set. Nevertheless, the World No. 5 from Austria found his way out of straits, when he wiped away a final third break point to hold his service game. It turned out to become an essential game, as Nadal was still thinking about the missed chances. As a result, the Spaniard shanked a forehand on break point, allowing Thiem a 2-1 break advantage.
After three hours and 50 minutes, Thiem set up a match-serving game for his potential first semifinal appearance Down Under. Visibly nervous, considering that he was on the verge of securing one of the greatest victories of his career, Thiem then produced some awful shots, hitting three consecutive unforced errors (including one double fault) to get “Rafa” back on track with a gifted break.
In the third tie-break of the match, the Spanish veteran saved two match points to close a 4-6 gap, but however had to accept loss after a misplaced drop shot, which ultimately cost Nadal the match.
THIEM’s Time To !
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2020
“I just wanted to stay in the match [in the fourth set] and I got the break, then got to 5-4 and served for the match and a place in my first semi-final at the Australian Open,” said Thiem.
“It was so mentally tough and I could not handle it, but I managed to turn it around again. There were a few demons in the head. I was rushing too much and changing my tactics. I am very happy I won the tie-break.”
Novak Djokovic can regain No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings as a result of Nadal’s quarter-final exit.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2020
Zverev defeats Wawrinka
Thiem awaits Alexander Zverev in the semifinals, who earlier the day prevailed over three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka. The 22-year-old German came back from a set down to secure a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory in two hours and 19 minutes.
“After that first set, I was getting ready to talk to the press about why I lost in straight sets,” Zverev joked in his on-court interview. “I turned it around and my energy picked up a bit. I wasn’t used to his ball… I needed a set to get used it. Thank God it worked out.
“It feels awesome. I’ve done well in other tournaments, but I could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. I’m happy to be in the semi-finals. You can’t imagine what this means to me and I hope it will be the first of many.”
Thiem could potentially reach his third Grand Slam final with a victory, while Zverev is looking for his maiden appearance in a major final.