RAFAEL NADAL CRASHES OUT OF AUSTRALIAN OPEN AFTER THRILLER WITH DOMINIC THIEM

Top seed loses quarter-final in four sets. Thiem beats Nadal 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6

Dominic Thiem held his nerve to send a tetchy Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals, prolonging the world No 1’s indifferent run in Melbourne.

• Nadal was looking to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 grand slam singles titles but that will have to wait after Thiem, the fifth seed, dug in for a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over more than four hours to progress to a semi-final against Alexander Zverev.

• Thiem had looked value for a two-set lead, earned through winning consecutive tie-breaks, before Nadal fought back to win the third, breaking in its 10th game as Thiem’s first serve began to let him down.


RAFAEL NADAL

Dominic Thiem held his nerve to send a tetchy Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals, prolonging the world No 1’s indifferent run in Melbourne.


Nadal was looking to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 grand slam singles titles but that will have to wait after Thiem, the fifth seed, dug in for a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over more than four hours to progress to a semi-final against Alexander Zverev.


Thiem had looked value for a two-set lead, earned through winning consecutive tie-breaks, before Nadal fought back to win the third, breaking in its 10th game as Thiem’s first serve began to let him down.


ZVEREV, MEANWHILE, REACHED HIS FIRST GRAND SLAM SEMI-FINAL WITH A FOUR-SET VICTORY OVER STAN WAWRINKA. THE 22-YEAR-OLD GERMAN WENT INTO THE MATCH HAVING NOT DROPPED A SET AND RECOVERED FROM A POOR START TO RECORD A 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 VICTORY.

The Austrian regained the ascendancy in the fourth, breaking early for a 2-1 lead and playing an astute mix of defensive and assertive tennis from the back of the court. However, Thiem looked as if he had squandered his chance with a jittery game serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set before recovering impressively in the tie-break.


Nadal saved two match points, the second with a HawkEye challenge after a Thiem lob had been called in, but on the third the Spaniard netted a forehand. Thiem, beaten by Nadal in the last two French Open finals, had never reached the last eight in Australia before but will be a tenacious opponent for any of the remaining men in the draw.


Thiem said afterwards: “I think all the match was on a very good level, I think we were both on great form. We already had this epic match in New York two years ago. Today I was really feeling I was lucky in the right situations. The net cord was really on my side. He’s one of the biggest legends this sport’s ever had so you need some luck to beat him.”


DOMINIC THIEM OVERCAME JITTERS AT THE TAIL END OF THE FOURTH SET TO FEND OFF RAFAEL NADAL’S ATTEMPTED COMEBACK. Photograph: Dita Alangkara/AP

Thiem described the 5-4 game in the fourth set as “a special situation for me, serving for the match against Rafa. Such a really mentally tough situation. I couldn’t handle it but I turned it round in the tie-breaker. I’m full of adrenaline, full of happy moments.”


Speaking courtside, Nadal said: “I don’t give up one moment during the match. I gave myself an opportunity until the last moment, so I’m happy for that, because my level of concentration and tennis was better I think. My tennis was not bad at all – it was difficult to play against him. I’m happy … [I could have had] a little bit more determination in some moments, true.”


Zverev, meanwhile, reached his first grand slam semi-final with a four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka. The 22-year-old German went into the match having not dropped a set and recovered from a poor start to record a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory.


Having been criticised for his below-par record in majors, there is a certain irony that Zverev’s big breakthrough has come at a tournament where expectations were probably at their lowest.


Zverev had a difficult 2019 and arrived in Melbourne with his serve apparently in crisis and having lost all three of his matches playing for Germany at the ATP Cup. But his serve has clicked back into gear here and he has shown the sort of efficiency that had proved elusive at the biggest tournaments.


He won only 11 points in the first set against the 2014 champion Wawrinka, who felt his quarter-final victory over Daniil Medvedev was the best he had played since knee surgery two and a half years ago.


That came over five gruelling sets and this was perhaps a match too far, with the veteran Swiss unable to sustain the pace as Zverev moved through to a semi-final against either Rafael Nadal or Dominic Thiem. The seventh seed is now only two victories away from being able to fulfil his promise to donate all his prize money to the wildfire relief efforts should he go on to lift the trophy.


Zverev said: “It feels awesome. I’ve done well in other tournaments, won Masters, won World Tour Finals but I never could break that barrier at a grand slam. You guys cannot imagine what this means to me and I hope this can be the first of many.”






Credit to Source: The Guardian

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