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Dominic Thiem Stuns Rafa Nadal In Madrid Tennis • Also In Semifinals Anderson and Zverev • Ricky’s Picks

Austria’s Dominic Thiem (R) is congratulated by Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain after winning their quarter final match of the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain, 11 May 2018. EPA-EFE/MARISCAL

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Dominic Thiem beating Rafael Nadal on clay? It’s nothing new. After all, Thiem has accomplished that feat once in each of the past two seasons.

 

Based on current form, however, there was no way it would happen again on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open. But that is, in fact, exactly what happened.

 

Lightning struck for a third time as Thiem scored a 7-5, 6-3 upset, becoming just the third player in history to defeat Nadal at least three times on clay. The 24-year-old Austrian broke Nadal’s serve a whopping five times while winning 66 percent of his second-serve return points and triumphing after one hour and 56 minutes of play.

 

Only Novak Djokovic, Gaston Gaudio, and now Thiem have beaten Nadal at least three times on the slow stuff. Djokovic has done it on seven occasions, while Gaudio–the 2004 French Open winner–and Thiem each own three such victories over the current world No. 1.

 

“I had to play an extraordinary match, and that’s what I did,” Thiem assessed. “It takes a really good match to beat Rafa on clay, but I think a very important thing was that I went in with the attitude that I can beat him. Obviously, two weeks ago in Monte-Carlo he killed me love and two. It was very important I went into the match with a positive attitude–with an attitude to win.

 

“I moved well; I was physically tough. But always against him, there are long rallies. You get out of breath. My groundstrokes were the best; they were very aggressive. I think I really hurt him with them…. I didn’t make too many stupid errors. That was important.”

 

“Of course I’m upset,” Nadal admitted. “I tried to come back. I tried to do it a couple of times, but I wasn’t good enough today. He was better than me today, that’s the end of the story. Some days you don’t play as well as you’d like to play. Also, when that happens, it’s because your opponent is doing really well. I just want to congratulate him; that’s all.”

 

Next up for Thiem is Kevin Anderson, who is a hard-to-believe 6-0 in the head-to-head series and 13-2 in total sets. Thiem has never won a single set off the 31-year South African without requiring a tiebreaker.

 

Anderson has advanced in Madrid with victories over Mikhail Kukushkin, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Dusan Lajovic.

 

The other semifinal will pit Alexander Zverev against Denis Shapovalov in a rematch of the 2017 Rogers Cup semis–which Zverev won 6-4, 7-5. A borderline Masters 1000 specialist (two-time champion and recent Miami runner-up), the 21-year-old German booked his spot in the Madrid semis by avenging his Miami final loss to John Isner. Shapovalov, meanwhile, held off Kyle Edmund in three sets.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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