It was the showdown many were anticipating to see this week in Madrid as world number one Rafael Nadal met Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinal of the Mutua Madrid Open. Their first meeting of the season in Monte Carlo did not go as many expected with the world number one rolling in straight sets.
This was a much different affair with the Austrian being aggressive, especially on the backhand side from the get-go. Thiem ended Nadal's incredible clay court set streak in the opener and ended the Spaniard's 21-match clay court win streak after defeating the Spaniard in straight sets.
Thiem Ends Nadal's Incredible Streak
Nadal saved two break points to start the match as he immediately felt the pressure of the Austrian. Thiem continued his fantastic start by getting that break in the seventh game after a couple of uncharacteristic forehand errors from the Spaniard.
Thiem won the rally of the match serving for the match to get the game to 30-all. Down 15-30, the two traded blows with Thiem getting Nadal off the court but capped off the point with a backhand pass. However, Thiem would be broken right back for 5-5.
Nadal's timing seemed a bit off with some slight hesitations. A missed overhead gave Thiem a 0-30 lead in the 11th game and then missed another short forehand to give the Austrian the break back. With a couple of missed shots, the 12th game saw a massive point at 30-all.
The Spaniard was there in time to get to Thiem's drop shot but didn't get enough on it to threaten Thiem who put away the overhead volley. Thiem ended Nadal's run of 50 consecutive sets on clay by taking the opener 7-5.
Thiem hit the ball phenomenally in the set, hitting 15 winners to Nadal's seven, as well as hitting a massive number on the forehand side, 11. Also, it was Thiem who dominated the net points, being more clinical at the front of the court with Nadal, oddly winning only five of ten points.
Thiem Continued To Produce Magic
After a couple of double-faults in the third service game, Nadal found himself down 15-40. A well-placed forehand winner hit the sideline plus an errant return brought it back to deuce. The backhand of the world number one was just not what it was earlier in the week, being broken in the third game.
Despite going down, Nadal was ready to strike back. He had two break points of his own but an incredible half-volley down break point helped Thiem bring it back to deuce, then holding.
Nadal finally got his first comfortable hold, holding at love but was still down 2-3. The world number one got his break chances back just like in the fourth game after a wild forehand from Thiem. He would go on to get that break to level the set at 3-3.
The defending Madrid champion found himself trying to save break points again after a backhand pass from the Austrian. The backhand once again from the world number one broke down and saw himself down a break again.
Thiem held at love to put the pressure on Nadal to stay in the match. Up 40-15, the world number one's groundstrokes were errant. A backhand winner down the line set up the first match point, but Nadal was able to fend it off. The Austrian converted at the second time of asking with another massive cross-court forehand winner to set up a semifinal showdown with Kevin Anderson.