Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem played an exhibition match in Adelaide ahead of the Australian Open. Rafa won that one, and it turned out to be their only meeting in 2021, both struggling with injuries and wrapping up the season earlier than expected. Asked about Nadal, Thiem placed the Spaniard among the three most significant players in men’s tennis alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and stated it was an honor and privilege to meet him and share the court with such a great rival. Between 2014-2020, Nadal and Thiem have played 15 matches, with the Austrian toppling the better-ranked opponent no less than six times, including four remarkable triumphs on clay. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Nadal most probably prevented Thiem from lifting the Roland Garros trophy, beating him once in the semis and two title matches. At the last year’s Australian Open, Dominic prevailed over Rafa 7-6, 7-6 4-6, 7-6 after four hours and ten minutes!
The Austrian advanced to his fifth Major semi-final and the first outside clay, facing Alexander Zverev for a place in the final. Thiem was the more aggressive player and claimed the opening two sets’ pivotal points to build a massive advantage, prevailing despite losing serve four times and delivering one break less. Dominic won five points more than Rafa, blasting around 65 winners to keep the points on his racquet and leaving the 2009 champion far behind in the more extended rallies. As the result suggests, the Spaniard had his chances in all three sets he lost, losing ground when it mattered the most and cracking under pressure to propel the Austrian through.
Dominic Thiem says it was an honor to meet Rafael Nadal and play against him.
Their most recent encounter came at the last year’s ATP Finals, and it also went down to the wire. In one of the season’s best matches, Dominic defeated Rafa 7-6, 7-6 in two hours and 25 minutes to maintain a perfect record in London. The Austrian survived all the obstacles in an incredible encounter, winning five consecutive tie breaks against the Spaniard if we count the Australian Open and securing the sixth victory over Rafa. There were only two breaks of serves in games seven and eight of set number two, and they stayed neck and neck all the time and produced a great level of tennis that was well-worth of the title clash. Thiem and Nadal will have more opportunities to share the court next year if they recover from injuries.
“Rafael Nadal is one of three men’s tennis GOATs. It was an honor to meet him and share the court with him many times,” Dominic Thiem said.