Flashback: The Day Thiem Toppled Nadal In Rome
Rafael Nadal played an incredible clay-court season in 2017, going 24-1 with four titles, including a triumph at Roland Garros. However, a 23-year-old Dominic Thiem prevented the Spaniard from clay perfection that season.
Thiem stunned the legendary lefty 6-4, 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for one of the biggest wins of his career, ending Nadal’s 17-match winning streak.
"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. You really have to finish the match off, and that's what I did today,” Thiem said. "He's this kind of player who never gives up. [He is] probably the best fighter in tennis. Especially on clay, it's one of the toughest things to beat him."
What makes the Austrian’s straight-sets victory even more impressive is that earlier that clay season, he lost twice against Nadal without winning a set. Entering their clash at the Foro Italico, the Spaniard led their ATP Head2Head series 4-1. Nadal’s four victories came in straight sets, and Thiem needed a final-set tie-break in his win.
But Thiem came out firing in Rome, looking to dictate play at every opportunity in his one-hour, 51-minute win.
"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," Thiem said. "I knew that if it goes in, everything, maybe I have a chance. If not, maybe I’d also lose easily. 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 was clutch under pressure, saving six of seven break points he faced. He won more points behind his second serve (58%) than Nadal did behind his first serve (55%).
“The opponent played very well. [I] just congratulate him, because he was better than me this afternoon,” Nadal said. “He played great in all aspects. Just well done for him.”
Thiem, who lost in the next round against Novak Djokovic, went on to reach his second consecutive Roland Garros semi-final. But against Nadal, he wasn’t able to conjure the same level he found at the Foro Italica. Nadal dismissed the Austrian 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, and he went on to lift the trophy without dropping a set.
Did You Know?
Nadal currently leads Thiem 9-5 in their ATP Head2Head series.