Picking up one of his greatest wins of his young career, Dominic Thiem outslugged and overpowered Rafael Nadal in the Rome quarterfinals today, ending the Spaniard’s 17-match win streak with an emphatic 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“It is an incredible feeling, after our last two meetings I was finally able to turn the tables and gain the win. Possibly one of my biggest wins ever! I am speechless, overwhelmed and thankful for all your support!” Thiem posted on facebook.
Thiem raced out the gate quickly building a jaw-dropping 5-1 lead in the first set. Nadal mounted a late surge winning three straight games but Thiem wouldn’t relent, taking the first set.
The Austrian continue to pound Nadal in the second, giving Rafa a taste of the medicine he’s been giving out for some many years. Thiem dictated off the ground punishing Nadal from both wings. Then the 23-year-old finally got a break and held on the for the stunning win.
“It’s a great achievement for me,” Thiem said. “If you’re up a set and a break, you never feel safe because he just doesn’t give you one easy point. So you really have to finish the match off, and that’s what I did today with a little bit of trouble in my last service game.
“He’s this kind of player who never gives up probably. Probably the best fighter in tennis. Especially on clay it’s one of the toughest things to beat him.”
Thiem finished the day with 24 winners (17 FH, 5 BH) and he broke Nadal three times. He had lost two clay finals already this year to Rafa including Sunday in the Madrid final, so revenge was oh so sweet.
“I came in with a very aggressive game style, because I knew that if I wanted to have a chance, then I would have to do something different and be more aggressive,” said Thiem.
“I knew that if it goes in, everything, maybe I have a chance. If not, maybe I also lose easy. But today was one of these days where I really felt the ball great on the racquet, and a lot of risky shots went in.
“It was a very, very good performance and I think probably one of my best matches.”
Nadal, who was seeking an 8th Rome title, isn’t worried about the loss after having won three titles in a row.
“It’s normal that one day you don’t feel perfect. If you are unlucky on that day, the opponent plays unbelievable,” said Nadal. “So tomorrow, I will be in Mallorca fishing or playing golf or doing another thing. That’s it.
“I never take Monte-Carlo, Barcelona or Rome like preparation,” said Nadal. “Every tournament is so emotional for me. Every tournament is so important. Every tournament by itself is important enough to not consider it like preparation for the other.
“It’s obvious that I did not play my best match,” he went on. “I have been playing a lot. Madrid and Rome, back-to-back, after playing Barcelona and Monte-Carlo back-to-back, so it’s not easy after playing almost every day for the past four weeks.”
Thiem will now await the winner between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro who couldn’t finish their match due to a late evening rain storm. Djokovic was ahead 6-1, 1-2 in the match. The Serb was broken in the opening game but then he reeled off six straight to take the opener. Djokovic will serve 1-2 when play resumes.
“It’s a very tough situation in tennis. I mean, you have a big win, and the next day there is Djokovic or Del Potro waiting,” said Thiem. “It remains very, very difficult. But they are both unbelievable, big players. I think it’s going to be a tough match between them today. Whoever wins, I have to take on tomorrow.”
One semi is set and it features two other first-time Rome semifinalists in big men Alexander Zverev and John Isner.
Zverev cruised past Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 6-1 to advance to his first Masters semifinal. The German 20-year-old broke Raonic 4/5 chances and saw just four aces from the big-serving Canadian.
“It’s another stepping stone in my career,” said Zverev. “I feel like I have played very well today. I returned very well.”
Isner had to go the distance to deny Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(2). Cilic, who was 6-0 against the American but has now lost his last two, never lost serve in the match while Isner smashed 21 aces.
“It doesn’t matter what the surface, I feel I can play well on all surfaces,” said Isner. “Nothing changes for me. Whether I’m playing on grass, hard, or clay, it’s the same recipe. I’m going to serve and hold my serve a lot. I can hold my serve in mud out there, really. So I like my serve no matter the surface. It just so happens to be that this week I’m sort of putting it together. Clay can be a great surface for me, but I also can play poorly on clay.
Zverev leads Isner 2-0, and their roots go back to Florida.
“So I’m happy to be in the semis and playing John tomorrow, who I know very well from our Saddlebrook days,” Zverev said. “We practice quite a lot together in the off season and do quite a lot of stuff together. It’s going to be a great match. I’m excited for both of us.”
SATURDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00 noon
WTA –  S. Halep (ROU) vs  K. Bertens (NED)
Not Before 1:30 pm
J. del Potro (ARG) vs  N. Djokovic (SRB) – to be finished 16 21
Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP –  A. Zverev (GER) vs J. Isner (USA)
Not Before 5:00 pm
WTA –  G. Muguruza (ESP) vs  E. Svitolina (UKR)
Not Before 8:00 pm
ATP –  D. Thiem (AUT) vs J. del Potro (ARG) or  N. Djokovic (SRB)
ATP –  P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) vs  B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA)
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