Dominic Thiem has the modest victory. Author of a huge match against a very good Rafael Nadal, whom he tamed in two sets (7-6, 7-6) after a very high level match on Tuesday in London, the Austrian confirmed that he was now more than a good player. He is now a very big thorn for the Nadal-Djokovic duo and a benchmark obstacle to overcome for the others. Failing to have the basket filled with several Grand Slam titles, the ultimate challenge for the tennis player, the winner of the last US Open finally battles with the tenors and beats them.
Stefanos Tsitsipas – Andrey Rublev
ATP Finals 2020 | Group London 2020 – Day 2
Since 2016, Federer is behind (5-2). Since 2017, Djokovic is also behind (4-2) and since last year, Rafael Nadal who stuck (3-1). Important thing: Thiem beats these three ogres on all surfaces, this is the parameter that he lacked until 2018 when he finally passed the course on cement. To date, only the short grass season does not allow him to exploit his potential, just like beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. But this is another story.
The click of Thiem also started from this defeat against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the US Open, in September 2018. A defeat conceded after a titan match, one of the most beautiful of the last decade. This gigantic 4:49 game laid the foundations for the complete player he then became. He missed that day, the physical dimension, very “Nadalien” factor. His victory on Tuesday clearly echoed New York in this aspect of the game. Facing Nadal, he is above the level of confrontations. In 2020, he won his two meetings with the Mallorcan – in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and Tuesday in London – and especially every time he plays a tie-break against Rafa, he wins. The two won at the O2 Arena brought its total to 5/5 in 2020. Three in Australia, two in London.
And it’s impossible not to think about his decisive game in the US Open final. There was no Nadal in front, but Alexander Zverev, but here too he made the decisive game his thing. The little match within the match is now his thing. Winning has therefore become easier. “It’s one of the biggest matches of my career, and I played better than at the US Open. It is very close to the one I played last year here against Nole. It was a great match from the first to the last point“, Thiem admitted a few moments after his victory. It is clear that he is right. At the Masters, he now has an important victory against the two men.
Thiem, a now complete player
His victory against the world No. 2 was symbolic in more than one way. In this match played at a crazy intensity, Thiem was never above the Spaniard strictly speaking. Neither physically, nor tennis, while he is playing stifling tennis in front of others. Once at home, he managed to go through a mouse hole to make the difference while keeping the intensity in his runs and strikes. He also admitted that Nadal was simply better than him in the decisive game of the first act. Shots from the baseline on both sides yes, varied play, slices, net climbs, above all reliable service. Against the Mallorcan, the Austrian played on a wire and fell only once in the heart of the second set. To immediately get up from it.
The rest of the game saw that his pitch coverage and movement had never been so optimized. Thiem is now more than a slugger, follower of the ocher lift. He is also a marathon runner who runs from January to November, and a more tactical player. To beat this Nadal, on a regular basis now, it was also necessary to tick these boxes. Even if this optimization seems late, the Austrian lives at 27 his physical fullness as observed by his former mentor Gunther Bresnik after his coronation in New York last September.
At the time of analysis, the 3rd in the world nevertheless warned: this kind of match, against a machine like Nadal, is also won thanks to the luck factor and total concentration. The real key to success has been mental for him. On the technical side, he paid tribute to his service which helped him out in important moments. “I was lucky to have won this first set, I was behind 5-2 in the tie-break. Against Rafa it’s a great thing to win the first set, even if he’s still there, 100%, from the first point. If we lose this first set, it becomes almost impossible to beat it. Even though I managed to win it, I managed to stay super focused. Everything was going well until he broke me in the second set. Then, I played my best game of the game to go and do the breakout. Like the other day (against Stéfanos Tsitsipas), all the players are in great shape physically and mentally. We’re going to have a lot of close matches“, he noted on the court facing the microphone of the ATP.
“You always need a little luck. To win you always have to be slightly better and I managed to do that today. I had the feeling that this match was of a very high level, all the time and on all occasions. I am extremely happy to have served well. In important situations in particular, like the tie-break in the first set, then in the second set: the serve helped me a lot. This is perhaps the most important move indoors. And it worked out well today.”
A great tennis match played in minute details
For our consultant Arnaud Di Pasquale, Thiem signed a physical service that was simply breathtaking. And that we do not even suspect. “On the physical side, after what we saw in the first set, I expected to see Rafael Nadal win. This is where we are more than pleasantly surprised is the consistency of the game produced by Dominic Thiem. We see him playing uncrossed forehands, we also see him cut the trajectories and play very early on the backhand, whether it is crossed or along the line and succeed in making the difference on the theme of power against Nadal. And he manages to make the difference, with precisely these changes of pace. It’s monstrous. I am really very very surprised to see him keep up to this pace, so sustained, in such a dense match..”
For the beat of this superb tennis match, the pill is not necessarily hard to swallow. On the contrary, the Manacor player noticed that he was playing very well in tennis. “It was a great tennis match that was played out in minute detail. He played an exceptional game and I also played very well, so I have no resentment“, he analyzed, before seeing what had really cost him the match: the missed opportunities.”I lost, but had plenty of opportunities in the first set, I had a break in the second … Well done Dominic, but I’m happy with the way I played. My chances of doing a very good result here are greater than five days ago because my level is much higher, even though I lost today“.
His future in the tournament now depends on a victory against Stéfanos Tsitsipas. For Thiem, it will be necessary to confirm his brand success against Andrey Rublev. Last year, he had not confirmed after his victory against Djoko. His quest for the summits also goes there.