Dominic Thiem put on a masterclass display to stun favourite Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-3 in the Rome Masters quarterfinal on Friday, ending the Spaniard’s winning streak in 2017 on clay in stunning fashion..
The duo had contested a thrilling Madrid Open final a few days ago, which the Spaniard won in straight sets, but this time round the up-and-coming Austrian got the better of him in what just might be the match of the season so far.
After winning the Monte Carlo Masters, the Madrid and Barcelona Open, Nadal was odds-on to make it a clean sweep of clay-court titles before June’s French Open.
Standing in his way, however, was a player touted to be the next clay-court great. Thiem has had an impressive 2017 season, having won the Rio Open and reaching the finals of both the Barcelona Open and the Madrid Open (Lost both to Nadal) but beating the resurgent Nadal on clay is a different matter altogether.
Seeded 8th, Thiem started off aggressively in the opening set, breaking the Spaniard in the opening game itself and consolidated his break by holding his serve. He would then break Nadal again in the fifth game and looked to race into a one-set lead in the tie before the 14-time-Slam winner broke back to present a window of opportunity, but the damage was done and Thiem was not to be broken a second time.
Thiem’s deep shots were forcing Nadal further away from the baseline and while the indefatigable Spaniard continued to fight, the second set began with the Austrian looking good value to snap Nadal’s 17-game winning streak.
The 23-year-old broke Nadal in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead, once again consolidated his break to lead 5-3 before reeling off four straight points on his opponent's serve to set up match-point.
And the World No.7 showed nerves of steel to clinch the first match-point itself, improving to a 2-6 record against Nadal in the process.
Thiem’s reward for the monumental triumph is a semifinal encounter with either four-time champion Novak Djokovic or Juan Martin del Potro, whose quarterfinal was postponed to Saturday with the Serbian leading 6-1, 1-2.