Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) 3-3* Dominic Thiem. Nadal holds to 15 after firing down three more unreturned serves. On game point, Thiem just sent a crosscourt backhand long. This has been the first real drop of intensity. We will see who can capitalise.
Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) *2-3 Dominic Thiem. Thiem retorts with a love hold of his own, slamming down three unreturned serves in a row.
Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) 2-2* Dominic Thiem. Nadal blitzes through a love hold, crushing a winning crosscourt backhand during a long point at 30-0 before closing with his third unreturned serve of the game.
Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) *1-2 Dominic Thiem. Thiem keeps himself ahead with a solid hold. From 30-30, he found two quick unreturned serves to hold.
Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) 1-1* Dominic Thiem. Nadal opens his account with a solid hold to 30. After a couple of loose forehands from Thiem during long exchanges, Nadal found a perfect lefty slider at 40-30 to seal the game.
Dominic Thiem’s average forehand speed:
In the tiebreak: 85mph
Rest of set one: 81mph
Rafael Nadal 6-7(6) *0-1 Dominic Thiem. Thiem survives the first break point of the day to open set two with a hold. How did Thiem respond to the break point at 30-40? By destroying an inside out forehand, of course. Two big unreturned serves later, he took his first service game of the set.
First set stats:
Nadal: 16 winners, 7 unforced errors
Thiem: 21 winners, 12 unforced errors.
It is hard to overstate how supreme that set was from both players. They spent 75 minutes playing exhibition shots and demonstrating every single facet of their games. Coupled with the typical power and athleticism was so much intelligence and guile from both.
In the end, Thiem was just more bold towards the end of the tiebreak. They surely cannot keep this intensity up, so let’s see who capitalises if it drops at the beginning of set two.
Dominic Thiem takes the first set 7-6(7) against Rafael Nadal
An incredible effort from Dominic Thiem, who was down *5-2 and double faulted at 5-5 yet saved two set points to take it. From 6-7 down, Thiem saved the set point by destroying a 100mph inside out forehand winner. On his first set point, he did exactly the same. So good.
Rafael Nadal 6-6 (*6-6) Dominic Thiem. Just as Nadal looked to be running away with the tiebreak at *5-2 with two mini-breaks, Thiem roared back into the match with some brutal hitting: an inside out forehand winner and then a winning backhand down-the-line. After pulling himself to 5-5, he threw in a shock double fault. At 6-5, Nadal netted a backhand in a neutral rally. Nerves.
Rafael Nadal 6-6 (4-2*) Dominic Thiem. Nadal changes ends with a slight lead in the tiebreak. Nadal took the first mini break at 1-1 with yet another supreme foray to the net, crushing an overhead winner after another lovely backhand volley. He gave it straight back with his first double fault of the tournament at 2-1. At 2-2, he slammed down another overhead winner after a big inside out forehand. At 3-2, Thiem’s attempted drop shot clipped the net and flew wide.
Rafael Nadal 6-6 Dominic Thiem. Thiem confidently holds to ensure that this brilliant set of tennis will be decided in a tiebreak. It started with a crazy point: Nadal produced a lovely defensive backhand lob, then Thiem pulled off a perfect low, dipping tweener as Nadal moved into the net, to which Nadal responded with a delicate drop volley winner.
Thiem’s serve then took over, landing him a couple of free points before he finished th game with an easy inside out forehand winner behind another big serve.
Rafael Nadal 6-5* Dominic Thiem. A much less stressful game from Nadal here as he holds to 15. He opened the game by sneaking to the net behind an angled crosscourt backhand, finishing the point with a lovely deep backhand volley. At 40-15, he swept into the net behind his serve and killed the game with a stone cold drop volley. Too good.
Rafael Nadal 5-4* Dominic Thiem. Thiem responds with a drama-free hold of his own, placing a drive volley into the open court after a really nice drop shot at 30-15. He closed off the game witth a vicious inside-out forehand after a big serve.
Rafael Nadal 5-4* Dominic Thiem. Nadal recovers from 0-30 down to keep himself ahead and within a game of the first set. Thiem started with a ridiculous backhand return passing shot winner from 9 feet behind the baseline and then a lucky net cord went his way as Nadal stood stranded at the net.
Nadal did not panic from 0-30 down, rolling through three unreturned serves in a row to reach 40-0. The game finished with both players landing brutal body blows before Nadal forced Thiem off the court with a heavy crosscourt forehand. An excellent hold.
Rafael Nadal *4-4 Dominic Thiem. The level of play right now is a bit bonkers. Nadal came up with a lovely drop volley to reach 15-15, to which Thiem responded with an awesome combination of forehands while on the run at 15-15, then a lovely drop shot winner of his own. With a missed backhand return from Nadal, Thiem held.
Rafael Nadal 4-3* Dominic Thiem. Thiem rolled with his momentum as he established a 15-30 lead with more quality play. How did Nadal respond? He swept into the net and played two intelligent volleys, then found consecutive big serves to hold. Supreme athleticism and huge hitting from both, but also such great decision making from both.
Rafael Nadal *3-3 Dominic Thiem. Thiem levels Nadal in what was a stunning game from both players. Thiem looked to be strolling to a quick hold, but from 40-15 Nadal came alive, crushing an inside out forehand winner and a brilliant down-the line forehand passing shot in consecutive points.
Thiem did well to force a game point with a trademark backhand down-the-line, which Nadal scuppered with his own winning backhand down the line. Thiem responded with an absurd crosscourt backhand winner of his own. On game point, after a brutal exchange, Thiem closed it off with a delicate counter drop shot. Every point is going straight onto the highlight reel. Incredible stuff.
Rafael Nadal 3-2* Dominic Thiem. Nadal holds again, this time to 15. After a couple of great unreturned serves, he closed it off so confidently, moving forward after a Thiem shot hit the net cord and finishing with another beautiful angled drop volley at full stretch. That was not an easy volley at all, but he made it look like it was.
Rafael Nadal *2-2 Dominic Thiem. Thiem responds with a really good hold to 15 behind some great serving. From 15-15 he held with consecutive winners from the first shot behind a big serve: forehand drop shot, booming forehand and then a sickly sweet forehand slice. Just very nice.
Rafael Nadal 2-1* Dominic Thiem. Nadal eases through a second hold to 15, closing it off with consecutive net forays. First he dispatched a volley behind a booming forehand, then he closed off the game with a serve and volley.
Nadal has won 5/5 net points so far. He is looking to move forward whenever he can and he should as he is one of the most underrated net players.
Rafael Nadal *1-1 Dominic Thiem. After a quick start from Nadal on his service game, Thiem recovered from 0-30 down extremely well. At 0-30, he switched things up with a very good serve and volley, then he pummelled an ace at 30-30. He closed it off with a wicked kick second serve that forced a forehand error from Nadal. This is quality tennis and both players look ready.
Rafael Nadal 1-0* Dominic Thiem. A positive, proactive start from Nadal, opening with a hold to 15.
It took just one point for the first brutal rally to begin as Nadal netted a forehand at 15-15 after a tough exchange. Nadal did very well afterwards, dragging Thiem off the court with an excellent crosscourt forehand at 15-15, dispatching a sliding ace at 30-15 and then finishing his first hold with a nice drop volley at the net.
Play has begun. Meanwhile, send some best wishes to one of the other top Spanish players of this generation, Carla Suarez Navarro, who is undergoing another round of chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.
Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are on the court. Nadal will serve first.
2020 top 10 records:
Dominic Thiem: 6-2 (all on hard)
Rafael Nadal: 2-3 (1-3 on hard)
It is that time of year where tennis journalists and fans stumble over basic maths.
- If Nadal defeats Thiem in 2 sets or if Nadal defeats Thiem and Rublev defeats Tsitsipas, Nadal will advance to the semi-final
- If Thiem defeats Nadal and Tsitsipas defeats Rublev, Thiem will advance to the semi-final
If you have a spare 37 minutes, here is their encounter in Melbourne this year. It feels like a decade ago.
Hello! Welcome to our coverage on day 3 of the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena, where we have the biggest match of the event so far as French Open champion and No 2 Rafael Nadal takes on US Open champion and No 3 Dominic Thiem.
This match has major implications for both the group stages and beyond. After Thiem’s tight three-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nadal’s easy first match against Andrey Rublev, they are fighting for supremacy in this group. Nadal will also retain his No 2 ranking if he wins today, making it likelier that he will clinch the 2nd seed at the Australian Open. Despite what they may say, neither player wants to face Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
Although Nadal leads the head-to-head 9-5, Thiem has made so much progress against the big three in recent years and his success is reflected in a 3-3 H2H over their last 6 matches. They have only ever played twice on hard courts, with Nadal edging out their classic 2018 US Open quarter-final 7-6(5) in the 5th set before Thiem won a tight Australian Open quarter-final in four sets this year.
Both played at a high level in their opening matches, and this match will give an accurate reflection of exactly where they are as they both look for their first ATP Finals title.