Facing each other for the sixth time at Majors, Dominic Thiem delivered his first victory over Rafael Nadal, defeating world no. 1 7-6, 7-6 4-6, 7-6 after four hours and ten minutes! The Austrian advanced to his fifth Major semi-final and the first outside clay, facing Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.
Thiem was the more aggressive player and claimed the pivotal points of the opening two sets to built a massive advantage, prevailing despite losing serve four times and delivering one break less. Dominic won five points more than Rafa, blasting around 65 winners to keep the points on his racquet and leaving the 2009 champion far behind in the more extended rallies.
The Spaniard had a chance to claim the opener, serving it at 5-3 and wasting a set point before dropping seven of the last eight points in the tie break and handing it to his opponent! Nadal held with a service winner in the opening game, and they both found the rhythm behind the initial shot in those early moments.
Rafa fended off a break chance in game five, remaining on the positive side and holding at love in game seven for 4-3. Out of a sudden, Thiem got broken a few minutes later after a perfect lob winner from Nadal, who was now serving for the opener.
As we already said, Nadal wasted a set point and allowed Thiem to break back on the third chance, reducing the deficit and extending the set. Rafa opened the tie break with two winners before Dominic grabbed two of his own to stay in touch, taking the next two points to forge a 4-2 gap.
A return winner pushed the Austrian 6-3 up, closing the set with a forehand down the line winner in the 11th point after taking seven of the last eight points. Like in the first set, Nadal squandered a break advantage in the second and lost the tie break to find himself on the verge of defeat.
From 30-0 down, the Austrian claimed four points on serve in the third game to stay ahead, drawing errors from Nadal, who couldn't create break chances. Four quick points led Rafa towards another hold at love, determined to leave that opening set behind and create some damage on the return as soon as possible.
The fifth game offered three break opportunities for him following a forehand winner, covering the court nicely and forcing uncomfortable hitting from Thiem, who fired a double fault to lose serve at love and push Nadal in front.
Unlike in the opening set, Rafa confirmed the break with a forehand winner, opening a 4-2 advantage and looking good to grab the set. Out of a sudden, Thiem broke back at love in the eighth game after a costly double fault from Nadal, who lost ground completely, losing the next game at love after a backhand error and serving to stay in the set at 4-5.
The Spaniard held with an ace to prolong the action, and Dominic brought another game home to extend the lead to a 6-5.
Dominic Thiem prevailed over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-final.
Rafa fended off a set point with a forehand down the line winner, closing the 12th game with a backhand crosscourt that stayed out of Thiem's reach and setting up a tie break that he had to win.
From 4-0 down, Nadal climbed back to 4-4 before playing a weak drop shot in the tenth point that Thiem captured and turned into a forehand winner and a 6-4 advantage. A lucky net cord helped Dominic to fire a forehand winner in the 11th point and move two sets to love up, taking another big step towards the first victory over Rafa at Majors.
After three hours of an incredible battle, the drama was heating up at Rod Laver Arena, as Nadal claimed the third set 6-4, reducing the deficit to two sets to one and staying alive in the battle for the semi-final. The Spaniard lost only four points on serve and grabbed a late break to keep his chances of reaching the next round and staying on the ATP throne on Monday.
With no room for errors, Rafa held at 15 in the first game before Dominic landed an ace to level the score at 1-1. An ace sent Rafa 3-2 up, producing three great holds so far in the third set that Dominic followed with another service game.
There was no drama in the seventh game either, with Nadal holding at 15 thanks to Thiem's backhand error. Dominic forced Rafa to mistake in the eighth game, leveling the score at 4-4 after only seven points for the returners so far in the third set.
In the ninth game, a forehand winner delivered another comfortable hold for Nadal, who forced Thiem to serve for staying in the set in the game that followed. Feeling the pressure, the Austrian netted an easy backhand to fall 40-15 behind, fending off the first set point with a service winner before placing another backhand into the net to hand the set to Nadal in just under three hours.
With momentum on his side, Rafa created two break chances at the beginning of the fourth set, denied by some powerful hitting from Thiem, who netted a forehand at deuce, repelling the third break chance with a brave forehand winner.
The Austrian held after forcing an error from the Spaniard, gaining a massive boost and refusing two straight breaks of serve. Dominic carried this advantage towards a break in the third game following a loose forehand from Rafa, securing the third break of serve since the beginning of the encounter that put him into a driving seat again.
The Austrian cemented the break with an ace in the fourth game, and Rafa had to work hard to stay within one break deficit, reducing the gap to 2-3 with a forehand winner in the fifth game. Thiem closed the sixth game with a hold at 15 thanks to an ace before Rafa delivered a hold from 30-0 down with a powerful serve to remain within one break deficit.
Serving in the eighth game, Dominic blasted a forehand down the line winner, forcing Rafa to serve for staying in the tournament. Shaking the pressure away, Nadal brought the game home at 30 and created two break chances on the return, seizing the second after a wild forehand from Thiem to level the score at 5-5 and stay in contention.
With this new opportunity, Nadal held in game 11 to gain the advantage before the Austrian grabbed the next one to set up a tie break, a must-win one for the 19-time Major winner. The Austrian made two massive errors to fall 2-1 behind in the early stages before taking control, opening a 5-2 lead and driving closer to the finish line when Rafa sent a backhand long.
A service winner pushed world no. 5 6-4 in front, wasting the first match point with a terrible forehand that finished in the middle of the net. Rafa saved the second with a well-constructed attack to level the score at 6-6 and increase what had already been an incredible drama.
A forehand winner after a lucky net cord gave Thiem a 7-6 advantage and the third match point that he seized when Rafa netted a forehand, celebrating a massive victory and moving into the semis.