Thiem Dethrones King Of Clay
Dominic Thiem had all the answers on Saturday at the Argentina Open, saving one match point to dethrone Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4). The 22-year-old Thiem was calm under pressure down the stretch in Buenos Aires, surviving the deciding tie-break after two hours and 50 minutes to reach his fifth ATP World Tour final.
“It was an amazing match for me,” Thiem said. “It was very tight from the beginning. It’s special to play against the big guys, and to beat one is a dream come true. In the third set, Nadal really stepped up but I was able to counter-attack and play incredible shots.”
The top-seeded Nadal opened the match by breaking Thiem’s serve, but the Austrian fought back strongly to take the first set. Nadal had looked vulnerable at times in straight-set wins over Juan Monaco and Paolo Lorenzi, and the youngster’s power and athleticism had the former World No. 1 searching for solutions.
“You have to be aggressive against him, because once you get on the defence, you have no chance,” Thiem added. “I had to play close to the lines and avoid long rallies, because [against Nadal] the longer the rally, the lower my chances of winning.”
Nadal appeared lacking in confidence, but the lefty’s resistance never waned. He snuck away with the second set by breaking Thiem in the 10th game, with the World No. 19’s serving to stay in the set.
A back-and-forth deciding set saw Thiem save match point at 4-5, then hold off Nadal in a deciding tie-break to prevent the Spaniard from becoming the sixth player in the Open Era to reach 100 tour-level finals. The pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry now stands at 1-1, Nadal having won their lone previous meeting at Roland Garros 2014.
The 22-year-old Austrian, seeded fifth, improves to 2-10 after dropping eight matches in a row against Top 10 opponents. His five tour-level finals have all come on clay.