Thiem Hangs On To Beat Nadal At Australian Open, Will Meet Zverev; Djokovic v Federer SF
by Staff | January 29th, 2020, 10:19 am
  • 34 Comments

Two former champions exited Wednesday during the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Seeking a Roger Federer-tying 20th Slam, Rafael Nadal succumbed to Dominic Thiem in four tough sets dropping three breakers 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) in yet another late-night thrill ride lasting 4 hours, 10 minutes

Nadal was the stronger of the two early but failed to close out the first set up 5-3; and then he got tripped up in a tiebreaker.

Much the same followed in the second set as Nadal again let a break lead go up 4-2 and once again it was Thiem coming up with the goods in the breaker while Rafa continues to struggle on serve in those key moments.

After over two hours of play, the two settled down in the third, cruising on serve, that is until Thiem missed a couple of backhands and was broken serving to stay in at 4-5.

With momentum now swinging slightly in Rafa’s direction, the Spaniard couldn’t mount much of a threat in the fourth. Thiem broke early, but the 26-year-old can unglued serving for the match at 5-4. To the roar of the crowd, Nadal leveled and here came another tiebreak.

Could Rafa really lose three tiebreakers in a single match for the first time in his career?

As the tension rose, Thiem kept the pressure piling up more and more mini-breaks to build a 6-4 lead on his serve. On the first match point, a sitter forehand put-away for Thiem found the net. Then at 6-all, a Thiem lob was called good but Nadal stopped the point to challenge… And indeed, Rafa was right. They played on.

But Thiem came up with a solid net-clipping backhand pass and then when a Rafa forehand misfired and sank in the net, it was over.

“All the match was on a very good level. We were both in good form,” Thiem said on court. “We already had this epic match n New York two years ago and today I had a feeling I was lucky in the right situations. The net cord was on my side. He is one of the greatest of all time, so you do sometimes need luck to beat him.

“I was a break down in first two sets and, in the first set, I was fortunate to get the break back at 4-5 when he was serving for the set,” he added. “In the second set, the break happened a little bit earlier. I played well in the two tiebreaks.”

Oh, but that missed chance to serve it out!

“Its a little bit demons in the head, like Roger said,” Thiem told the crowd about failing to serve it out. “It’s true. Everybody has it and I was just rushing way too much, changing a little bit the tactics from all the match and that was wrong.”

Thiem moved on to his fifth Slam semifinal, first off of clay.

For Nadal, it’s another missed chance at a second Career Slam and a shot at tying Federer. But also, he’ll lose No. 1 if Novak Djokovic goes on to win the title.

“I had a big chance with 5-3 in the first,” Nadal said. “I think I had set point serving. Was a very important moment of the match for sure.

“I think he’s playing great. He’s playing with a lot of energy, aggressive, determination. So well done for him.

“I honestly didn’t play a bad match. My attitude was great, I think, during the whole match. Good, positive, fighting spirit all the time, giving me more chances.

“Of course, I am sad. I lost an opportunity to be in the semifinals of another Grand Slam. But I lost against a great opponent. And he deserve it, too. Well done for him.”

Earlier in the day, Alexander Zverev finally reached his first Grand Slam semifinal eliminating a fading Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Wawrinka, who had played five sets in two of his last three matches, couldn’t keep his excellent level up from the first, and the fresher Zverev won rather routinely thereafter.

“After that first set, I was getting ready to talk to the press about why I lost in straight sets,” Zverev said on court. “I turned it around and my energy picked up a bit. I wasn’t used to his ball… I needed a set to get used it. Thank God it worked out.

“It feels awesome. I’ve done well in other tournaments, but I could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. I’m happy to be in the semifinals. You can’t imagine what this means to me and I hope it will be the first of many.”

The 22-year-old German committed 31 double faults in three matches at the ATP Cup, but he’s got his serve right this week tossing in just 11 in five matches so far, partly because he’s not going big on his first. Today, he connected on 80% of his first serves.

“I worked very hard on it, worked a lot on it,” Zverev said of his serve. “I hope you can see in ATP Cup I was horrible, but this is a Grand Slam and this is where you’re meant to play your best tennis and I’ve been doing that… my energy picked up a little bit.”

Zverev also owns a 3-0 record over Wawrinka who hasn’t been to a Slam semifinal since the 2017 French Open.

“I started really well. He was a little bit nervous at the beginning. I could feel he was not playing freely. I was playing really aggressive, moving well, putting a lot of pressure all the time, every shot,” said Wawrinka.

“I know how well he can play,” he added. “For sure, he had some trouble with his serve before this tournament… The two times I played him, he was serving unbelievable and I had some trouble to break him. I know how well he can serve. Today, he was putting a lot of pressure with his serve.”

Zverev and Thiem will put one of them in their first Australian Open title match and first hard court Slam.

Tomorrow, the big showdown is set in the evening between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. In their 50th meeting, which Djokovic leads 26-23, the question will be Federer’s fitness after the Swiss played 14 of a possible 15 sets in his last three matches. And the 38-year-old came out with a groin injury in that win over Tennys Sandgren.

The two played an epic at Wimbledon but Federer returned the favored in London in November. This court, though, is playing slow which again gives the Serb the edge.


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34 Comments for Thiem Hangs On To Beat Nadal At Australian Open, Will Meet Zverev; Djokovic v Federer SF

chofer Says:

Rather ironically, I see Zverev a worst matchup for Djoko in hardcourts than Thiem, who has the edge mentally.
Assuming he beats Roger first, which is logical with him having a back pain at 38 and the Djoker being fresh as a lettuce.

I just hope either the Austrian or the German won’t bow down in straights in the final, or all the hoopla about the men’s tournament will go down by a pipe. The final of a Grand Slam is the lasting impression we’ve got as a whole. The cherry on the cake or an anticlimax.

For the first time in ages, I’m waiting for a Barty-Halep final. That should be a scorcher. I hope it happens.


chofer Says:

I’ve been following Ash’s matches and she’s very resourceful, which is NOT the WTA at all. A thinker like Radawnska with much better serve and power. So much options and variety… And Simona, playing without fear is just SO solid and hits so deep, which is not WTA either (so much shanked shots going to the fences) Crossing my fingers.


RZ Says:

Chofer – What do you mean by resourceful in this context? By my definition (finding ways to overcome difficulties), I can think of many resourceful players: Halep, Andreescu, Wozniacki (if she still counts), Clijsters (counts as she’s making a comeback), Riske, Kerber, Gauff, Williams (both of them), Pavyluchenkova, etc. I’m thinking you mean having variety instead? (Although there are several players with variety)


Daniel Says:

RZ,

I think chofer meant more like Henin style. Barty is the player who most resemble her, and with more tools on her arsenal, and a thinker on court.


Dantheman Says:

This was a great moment for the NextGen of tennis AND tennis in general. Federer and Djokovic and Nadal can’t keep winning forever. It’s great to see one of younger players (lol 26 years) rise up and take the match. Thiem made some big steps forward in his game last year and he’s building on it now. It will be great to see a serious new contender in a slam final. The men’s game has been a little too predictable for a while now. A possible new champion would be great. Thiem has a decent record against all of these guys so if he makes the final, he definitely has a chance. Zverev has clearly raised his game in this slam too, so I look forward to the next few matches.


RZ Says:

Zverev may well win this tournament and have to give up his prize money (for a very good cause though)


chofer Says:

@RZ
” I’m thinking you mean having variety instead?”

I SAID variety in my post. And resourceful is not exclusive. Having more resources means having more weapons to win a match other than power and placement.

@Daniel
“I think chofer meant more like Henin style”.
Exactly. I used the Radwanska example because I think Barty is less explñosive than the diminutive Belgian and doesn’t possess the the BH she had (although Barty has the best slice shot of them all; women rarely slice nowadays)

The only other one I see with such array of choices is Bianca Andreescu. She has time to improve her serve and BH, too.

Just these two in the top 10 add new dimensions to the game we were lacking since Henin’s glory days.


chofer Says:

Henin, also, moved like Simona now.

So we need three woman to make one Henin,lol.

Of course, nevermind Grand Slams and the greatness of Serena, Henin retirement was the reason I stopped watching women tennis altogether. The most complete player I’ve ever seen. She only had one shortcoming: being too short and fragile for this all-power era.


RZ Says:

Chofer, I would add Kerber (though she’s currently outside the top 10). I’ve seen her switch up game plans in several matches, though often people scoff at her for starting to lob a lot. (They shouldn’t scoff, it’s a legitimate play). Also Bertens. During her match against Muguruza, she switched up her style of play. While she didn’t ultimately win, she avoided a big-time beatdown by making it more competitive.


skeezer Says:

Rafa’s footwork and speed was lacking this match. Don’t know if its age, wear and tear, or, hey, maybe Theim is at the peek of his footwork and speed skills, cause there was a difference between the two.. Lots of props to Theim. It takes a lot bigger effort to get ready to hit a one handed backhand than a two hander and he winds top big on that side like Wawa. Serve was on point as well as his FH for the most part. He is going to have to play like this or better though to beat Djoker.


skeezer Says:

winds top big = winds up big..


FedExpress Says:

Severing said that Fed skipped practice today. Focus was on physio and recovery.

I dont think he will play tomorrow. And dont blame him one bit.

Was a hell of a tournament with good moments.


Chofer Says:

@RZ

Sure. Kerber has options but lacks the power of Barty. The lob option is sensational, if only women approach the net more often…
Anyway, variety it,s on spins also. It,s the part we don,t see from TV but that you REALLY appreciate on court level.
Barty and Andreescu are light years away from the rest in changing spins. Everyone can redirect the ball with power. Not
everyone can change the baño revolutions or height. Not even Serena.

PS: I agree with FedExpress!! Must be the fever.


Chofer Says:

Ball revolutions I meant.


RZ Says:

Chofer – I’m sure there are also baño revolutions but I hope they are not visible on the tennis court! 😁


chrisford1 Says:

“Zverev may well win this tournament and have to give up his prize money (for a very good cause though)”

He might be feeling a little sick right now about his impulsive pledge, given the prize money is 1.04 million for the semis, 2.06 for RUP, and 4.12 million for the winner. And many are saying the root cause is Greens and others forced bad forest management practices that led to conflagrations – just like in California. Though the money will go to many that had no say in the making of New South Wales tinderboxes.

——————————-
I’d be surprised if Roger misses his Slam semi. He skipped practice. He has done that many times to let his body recuperate. He is Roger Federer, and has plenty of experience at this stage understanding the feel of the courts and the way the balls behave in Melbourne, and his ability to hit the ball based on 30 years of doing so, is quite good. The need for time spent recuperating will win out. Even if his groin injury is not fixed enough, he probably still will show up.
———————-
Rafa got Thiem in “beast mode”. Thiem even moved better than Rafa, he’s improved there, and he is absolutely smashing the ball. Should Novak beat Fed, the Final will be no walkover. Zeverev and even more, Dominic Thiem, will have a good shot (on paper at least).
Rafa is jinxed at the AO. 11 years since he won his only title here. A double career Slam looks as daunting as Roger getting one by winning his 2nd French Open. And I think odds are now against Novak winning one there unless he gets lucky.


chofer Says:

@RZ

That’s why Novak apologized for with Raonic the other day? He, he.

Kidding, kidding.

Really. Am I the only one who NOTORIOUSLY saw Rafa without explosion on his legs?

I’m not trying to diminish Domi. If anything, he’s a younger version of Rafa reg. “legs” “explosion”.

But, c’mon. Roger can disguise that because he’s become more and more aggressive.

But if you return the serve on a hard court, around the Bus Station of the stadium, the difference shows. Ouch!


chofer Says:

The only one who didn’t receive the memo about the legs is the Rubber Man.

But time will also eventually catch up with him. Stan also was gassed yesterday.


Wog Boy Says:

Zverev, after first round win, said:
“I know I am not a favourite to win AO, but if I win I’ll donate all the money to bushfires victims”
So he isn’t obligated to do that if he doesn’t win.
To be honest, after his atrocious showing at ATP Cup, makin 15 double faults per 3 set match it was easy to promise it.

He was very lucky with a draw to play him into form and meeting tired Stan who had enough gas for 2/3 sets if so? So was Thiem until Rafa meeting, even with that extremly high level of tennis Thiem didn’t play the best Rafa (for whatever reason). Rafa didn’t move well, was making unusual choice of shots and missing the shots he would usually make with closed eyes.

I see Thiem as a favourite to win whole thing now, though Zverev match can prove tough, if Zverev has good serving day (against Stan was 80%) with his aggressive flat shots and much better BH than Rafa Thiem won’t have the time Rafa gave him.
Very important thing is that it will be extremely hot tomorrow noght, same as tonight, I just hope they will not close the roof but let the players battle in natural (open) environment.

Last, considering that 38 years old has beaten Nole in straight sets on the very same surface recently and is known to stop Nole few times when he was about to make history, I see him as slightly favourite tonight.


chofer Says:

When all is said and done with this trio, remember these two UNBELIEVABLE facts:

1) They blocked AN ENTIRE GENERATION (90 to 95, at least) from even reaching higher than 3 and winning Slams. Unprecedented.

2)ThYe prematurely put the fourth, Murray, closed to retirement (and, if not, far from achieving Slam status again) BY HAVING HIM WORK LIKE AN A**HOLE TO GET TO NUMBER ONE SO MUCH HE NEEDED A SURGERY AND PROSTETICS AFTER THAT.

What’s the word? Ah, RUTHLESS.


chofer Says:

One last thought.

It pained me to no end seeing Zverev and Medvedev returning serve like Rafa, around the parking lot.

Rafa at least has an explanation: his gigantic rotations to generate heavy spin on the ball take that long to cook.

What’s the excuse for taller, flatter-hitters?

There isn’t one!


Wog Boy Says:

Chofer, you posted while I was writing my Anna Karenina post (that’s how long it takes me for that long post).
Yes, I repeated what you said, that wasn’t best Rafa and he was confused and irritated with bad umpiring, and before “some” people jump on me, everyone in commenting box and Hewitt on court, starting with Jim Courier agreed that it was bad umpiring, she didn’t have a common sense and Rafa was rightfully pissed of with her decisions, particularly one when she didn’t let him challenge.
Even that Rafa had more than enough chances to win the match but he was missing the shots he never does.


Wog Boy Says:

Last, good Lord, why Channel 9 brought that creep John McEnroe as a commentator, plus despicable behaviour of him and Martina in the foreign country.


chofer Says:

Wog Boy

I think it was evident. He seemed slow.


FedExpress Says:

https://ausopen.com/practice-schedule

Federer not practicing today so thats it.

He will withdraw couple of hours before the match or in the afternoon I think.


Wog Boy Says:

No, he won’t.


Daniel Says:

chofer,

Thiem also suffer from the 4 m return, but he also has the insane spin and clay deep return center court to neutralize point. Even so, several tines he irritated me not attacking Nadal’s second serve. I remember, if not last year, the year before a clay match where he beat Nadal in straights returning on top of the baseline cutting Nadal time.
Today he started winning more second serves on Nadal, more than 50% but eventually Nadal finish with 52% second serves win. Too passivo for me.

Djoko and Federer are taking advantage of Nadal last 5 years because they are the best returning his serve not allowing him time. He start the point almost half the times not able to do his bread and butter. They are constantly pressure him on serve. Majority of other players don’t. Medveded was able to do it in patches in USO and DelPo in the past also.

Players need to jump on his serve, specially as he is one of the best returners adapting to all sort of players.


RZ Says:

@Daniel – Thiem has been getting better (at least on hard courts) about his positioning. He was far back during the Fritz match, but the other times I watched him, he was closer to the baseline.

@chrisford1 – an aspect of Thiem’s game that often goes unmentioned is his speed. He is one of the fastest guys out there. His speed was instrumental in winning the Indian Wells final over Federer, when he ran down two drop shots in a row toward the end of the third set and was able to hit winners off of them.


skeezer Says:

Djooker is the HEAVY favorite to win. There is no debating here on that. He is in form. The #2 in the world, soon to be #1, has never looked better. Who is he going to play? An old, worn out not in form opponent who hasn’t played well against lower ranked players. On top of that, this year the surface plays very slow, no denying that.

Theim has a shot, but it is a very long one. Djoker tonight in 3 easy, unless Fed pulls out from the injury, then he wins in 0.


Chico Says:

Going with Skeezer here, Zverev comes short in every department, even serve this year, where as Thiem has the higher gear that if he finds it, then there is a chance. If Thiem makes it to the final then be there from the first ball since the first set is crucial. Against Nadal it was not boxing but full contact from the first ball.

Rafas ‘jinx’ in AO: Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka

High honorable mention for 2020 could allready be handed to Fed for solving Millman, Sandgren.


skeezer Says:

To add Wilander says gonna be 33degrees so advantage Fed …..cause what ….Djoker can’t handle da heat? LMAO waaay too much hype. Djoke in 3 quick ones.


Wog Boy Says:

30 minutes ago 38 year old requested close court session, Tennis Australia confirmed, he’ll play tonight.


skeezer Says:

He must be requesting that to keep the Court conditions cool for Mr. Plant based diet. Diet will win in 3.


Tennisfansince76 Says:

@skeezer I agree with everything you wrote with the exception of Djokovic playing better than he ever has. 2011, 2015 to early 2016 was as good as I’ve seen him. Have you forgotten how badly he destroyed roger for the first 2 sets in the 2016 semi? Roger to his credit managed to take a set. Or the scary demolition of Nadal at Doha a week before that?

Some people have said Rafa was slow or his foot work was bad last night. Based on what I saw his movement last night was about the same as it has been for the past few years which is to say excellent if maybe a notch below his absolute prime. His big problem was that he was the second heaviest ball striker on court last night. Thiem was bossing him around when they got into extended exchanges last night as evidenced by the fact that Thiem won 9+ ball exchanges 24-12 a margin of 2 to 1! Against Nadal. And Thiem is no slouch in the movement department either. If Nadal has not moved well last night he would not have won a set and the sets would have been less competitive.

Thiem has improved quite a lot in the last few years. I remember seeing him lose to Goffin a few years ago at the AO. He hit all his shots as hard as anyone on tour but his point construction was atrocious. I was not impressed. Thiem could definitely have beat Rafa at the USO in 2018. I thought he was slightly the better player for that match. He was in good position to win the 3rd set but didn’t. Where Rafa had the edge in that match was in shot selection, point construction and overall poise in pressure situations.

And of course, what Thiem did at WTF was impressive beating the 2 best indoor players of last 20 years convincingly. In those matches he hugged the baseline when returning and during baseline exchanges not surrendering an inch.

And lastly there is no way Federer can be considered a favorite for tonight’s. Given Federer’s form in this tournament and the slow conditions Djokovic is the overwhelming favorite.

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