Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem played an exhibition match in Adelaide prior to the Australian Open. Rafa won that one, and it turned out to be his only meeting in 2021, both battling injuries and finishing the season earlier than expected.
When asked about Nadal, Thiem placed the Spaniard among the top three players in men's tennis alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and stated that it was an honor and a privilege to meet him and share the court with such a great rival.
Between 2014-2020, Nadal and Thiem have played 15 matches, with the Austrian defeating the top-ranked opponent no fewer than six times, including four notable wins on clay. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Nadal likely prevented Thiem from lifting the Roland Garros trophy, beating him once in the semi-finals and two games for the title.
At last year's Australian Open, Dominic beat Rafa 7-6, 7-6 4-6, 7-6 after four hours and ten minutes! The Austrian advanced to his fifth Major semi-final and his first off clay, facing Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.
Thiem was the most aggressive player, claiming key points from the first two sets to build a huge lead, prevailing despite losing serve four times and delivering one fewer break. Dominic won five more points than Rafa, scoring around 65 winners to keep the points on his racket and leaving the 2009 champion far behind on the longest rallies.
As the result suggests, the Spaniard had his chances in the three sets he lost, losing ground when it mattered most and cracking under pressure to power the Austrian.
Uncle Toni speaks about Rafael Nadal
Over the years, the Rafael Nadal’s form has taken contrasting hits; yet, one thing has remained solid for him – his team.
Rafael Nadal has had a phenomenal bunch of guys working day and night to keep the southpaw in the best state possible. Leading his team for a while was his uncle Toni Nadal. For a long period of time, Toni had kept Nadal active and in contention for the biggest titles.
“I was a good coach because I was with Rafael Nadal,” claimed Toni. “Each coach depends on his player. Rafael had this mentality of progressing all the time”. The veteran adviser hoped that this same added advantage will also be seen in Felix.
He continued “That’s what I try to instill in Felix [Auger-Aliassime]. I can go with him, but not do it for him”.