Dominic Thiem outlasted Rafael Nadal in yet another tight matchup at the ATP Finals on Tuesday. The two best claycourters in the world slugged it out for almost 2-and-a-half hours before Thiem prevailed 7-6(7), 7-6(4).
After a tight start to the opening set, it was Nadal jumping on top in the breaker 5-2. But Thiem clawed back in this, their first indoor meeting. The Australian took seven of the last nine points.
In the second, Nadal grabbed a break but failed to hold it. The Spaniard then was in deep trouble serving 0-40 down three match points at 4-5. A serve-volley on second serve saved him but Theim would eventually earn his sixth career win over Nadal in the ensuing breaker.
“The match was at a very high level with all strokes,” said Thiem. “I am very happy with the way I served, because most of the time when I get the first serve in, I am on the offence and I have a good percentage to win the point. When I was in difficult situations like the first-set tie-break.
“Tthe serve helped me out a lot. I think it is maybe the most important stroke in indoor tennis. I am very happy that it worked well.”
The win moves Thiem to 2-0 in the London Group. He would eventually win the group and make the semifinals after Stefanos Tsitsipas eliminated Andrey Rublev from the competion in the nightcap.
But Rublev very nearly pulled off a stunning win. The Russian was overwhelmed in the lopsided 6-1 first set. He managed to level set-all, and reached a match point on his serve in the breaker at 6-5 when he tossed in a crushing double fault.
The Greek, who is defending his 2019 title, took advantage and won his second match over Rublev in as many months.
“It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said. “The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off. I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.
“It is a learning opportunity as well for today. Even though it was a win, I still feel like there is plenty to improve and get better at. I am sure being with that mindset, being willing to just put more and more effort into what I am doing and more sacrifices are going to pay off at the end.”
Rublev, who was down 5-2 in that final set breaker, has now been eliminated from the event in his debut. He will still have a match on Thursday against good from Thiem for points, prize and pride.
“This match that I turned around basically was supposed to be maybe 6-1, 6-3, and I was still there, I was still fighting,” Rublev said. “In the end I had match point. In the end, I was almost there and I had my chance to win the match.”
On Wednesday, Novak Djokovic will try to continue his run to a sixth ATP Finals crown against a very in-form Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic leads 4-2 but the Russian was victorious at the ATP 10 months ago.
“He showed why he’s one of the best players in the world, why he’s Top 5,” said Djokovic. “This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves got him to where he is. He deserves to be there.”
Also, Alexander Zverev will try to put away Diego Schwartzman. Zverev just routed the Argentine in the second Cologne final last month.
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